Bill Perry's newest release, Don't Know Nothin' About Love, finds him reunited with producer extraordinaire Popa Chubby. Bill tears it up on a program consisting of eight new originals and three covers, including a rock-the-house version of "Hello Josephine." Once again, producer and artist have collaborated to craft a splendid showcase for Bill's incendiary guitar playing and songwriting prowess. Bill notes that "working with Chubby has really let me come into my own as a recording artist; the guy's a genius in the studio whose enthusiasm gets everybody going."
Born and raised in the Hudson River town of Chester, New York, Bill was presented his first guitar at the age of five. "Right away," he says, "I could play the theme from 'Batman.'" Like Charlie Parker and Jimi Hendrix, Perry's parental heritage is half Afro-American and half American Indian, and he grew up in a household surrounded by gospel and blues music. "My father used to listen to Jimmy Smith and B.B. King, and my grandmother played organ in church, so I was always around this kind of music."
Eventually Bill gravitated to the rock sounds of the 60's. His favorite guitarists were Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman, and Johnny Winter. It was his discovery of their sources of inspiration that led him back to the blues -- Albert Collins, B.B. King, and his personal favorite, Freddie King.
Although Perry's guitar style is influenced by his early favorites, he has always sought to develop his own technique, which combines effortless fluidity and incredible attack. "Albert Collins was one of the best of the contemporary blues players who had this really distinctive style. You'd know within three notes, 'Oh, that's Albert Collins.' I think it's the right thing to do, to do something different with the blues, to keep the music evolving."
As for Bill's voice, a distinctive, deep rasp full of grit and gravel, it is particularly suited to the blues, convincingly conveying the drama and emotion that are so essential to the music. He puts considerable effort into his phrasing of lyrics and also has the rather unique ability to sing while playing guitar solos.
As a teenager, Bill was sneaking into the legendary Greenwich Village blues club Dan Lynch and began jamming with all the local blues musicians. Soon after, he put together his first blues band and started gigging in New York and New Jersey nightspots.
One night, after playing a set of Hendrix songs, Bill was approached by Richie Havens. "Later, he called me up out of the blue and asked if I wanted to do a gig with him that weekend. I asked, 'Where's the gig?' and he says, 'Japan.' I'd never flown before on a jet, but next thing you know I'm on a plane to Japan. That was it. I played with Richie for four years."
While Bill was on the road with Havens, he spent a lot of his time honing his songwriting skills. "The whole time I was out with Richie, I was coming up with different ideas for blues songs. I went back even further, and started getting into Curtis Mayfield's songwriting, and got into a heavy soul thing for a couple of years. Then I started getting back into doing just straight-ahead blues."
Bill's first two albums, Love Scars and Greycourt Lightning, were released by Point Blank/Virgin in 1995 and 1998 respectively. The critics sat up and took notice. Bill was featured in Guitar Player which said, "Bill Perry has it all - hip songs, a gritty, emotion-charged voice, devastating tones, and a powerful phrasing delivered with a stranglehold vibrato and knockout attack."
On stage, Perry earned a reputation as a mesmerizing performer who plays with passion and excitement. In 1999 he released a live recording entitled High Octane on Car Wash Records that became one of the most critically acclaimed live albums of the year.
Perry's rousing, crowd-pleasing performance at the Bishopstock Blues Festival in England in 1999 sparked the interest of Blind Pig Records and eventually led to a recording contract. The first album for Blind Pig, Fire It Up, was co-produced by Jimmy Vivino of "The Conan O'Brien Show" and released in 2001.
Guitar One magazine said the CD was simply "searing, scalding electric blues," while Jazz Times called it "a compelling showcase of guitar heroics and good old-fashioned soul."His next CD for Blind Pig, Crazy Kind Of Life, was released in October 2002. Perry and co-producer Vivino wrote all the songs, with the exception of the Rolling Stones chestnut "No Expectations," on which special guest Richie Havens interprets one of the best blues tunes ever to come out of the rock idiom. Billboard called it, "An exceptional outing for guitarist/vocalist Bill Perry. He has definitely hit his stride as a solo artist."
Bill Perry's next Blind Pig CD, Raw Deal, was his first collaboration with New York legend and postmodern blues master Popa Chubby. His approach was basically to let Bill be Bill. "This cat can play the guitar, man, and I don't mean just spewing out licks. No way, man, he speaks. He speaks because that's his voice. I told Bill, 'Man, write songs about your life, about who you are, and what you do, and let's put up some mikes and let the magic happen."
Well, once again the magic is happening on Don't Know Nothin' About Love, with Perry's guitar ferocity, gutsy vocals, and go-for-broke, psychedelic intensity burning brighter than ever. As Guitar One said, Bill is a "six-string superman more powerful than a locomotive."
Postscript: Bill Perry passed away on July 17, 2007 at the age of 49.