Dave Perkins is an artist whose musical journey crisscrosses the map of American music. Perkins’ work as a guitarist includes playing bluegrass and swing with fiddle-great Vassar Clements, Texas renegade-country with Jerry Jeff Walker, singer-songwriter pop with Carole King, alternative rock with Chagall Guevara, folk with Guy Clark, blues and jazz with violinist Papa John Creach, alt-pop with Over The Rhine, reggae with Mystic Meditations, and industrial hard-core with Passafist. Then, there were the occasional odd jobs, such as accompanying Ray Charles on his “3/4 Time” video. If there is a style of American music that calls for guitar, chances are Dave Perkins has played it, and played it with passion and skill.
With Pistol City Holiness, Perkins comes full circle to his first love—the blues. “The blues was the first music to capture my imagination. It grabbed me because it was something other—alien—and, yet, at the same time, deeply familiar. I’ve never gotten over it. I’ve worked in a lot of different styles of music, but my approach to each one was and will always be shaped by the blues.”
Reflecting on the creation of Pistol City Holiness, Perkins says, “I wanted to make an album that brought back the excitement I felt when I first heard Muddy Waters, Cream, Fred McDowell, and Peter Green. And, I wanted to record with the musicians I shared the most history with.” Featured on the album are three of Perkins’ longest running musical relationships—Richard “Hombre” Price, Reese Wynans, and Mel Watts. Their musical association is decades deep. Like Perkins, each of these players has a significant performance pedigree with ties to artists like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Lucinda Williams.
Pistol City Holiness builds on the model of the traditional Chicago blues band, where guitar, piano, and harmonica play important roles as solo instruments. Along with Perkins’ guitar and Wynans’ piano and organ, TJ Klay fills out the section on blues harp. Around those foundational elements, aspects of techno, southern and alternative rock are interwoven to create a bracing, muscular take on blues-inflected American music.
Much like his sound, Perkins’ lyrics are simultaneously traditional and innovative. Perkins brings a contemporary poetic sense to his treatment of the blues even when dealing with age-old themes. Long Eleven Road is the story of a blue-collar family’s forced dislocation in pursuit of illusive employment. In Break, Perkins speaks for the frustrated, hard working person denied their piece of the American dream; Perkins sings,
“The taste of life is oh so sweet—they’re finding money in the street—some folks live a life that’s charmed—some folks can go through hell unharmed. But, hard luck days have caught me in a corner for a kill—why does the road seem to always run up hill? I want a break that I don’t have to make!”
Two of the album’s songs revisit a topic that has been present in the blues since the beginning--religion and spirituality. With Preacher Blues, the womanizing, cult-of-personality preacher is Perkins’ target. On a more positive note, Revival speaks to the healing power of community for the prodigal son. Perkins’ songs, Flown and Bottles and Knives give fresh perspectives on the difficulties of relationships. Here, Perkins anchors the album by working with what has traditionally been the first topic of the blues—love, or, the lack of it.
A brew of musical energies, Pistol City Holiness blurs boundary lines between styles, and makes an artistic statement that speaks to the variety and depth of Perkins’ experience—musical and otherwise—all while keeping the blues as the emotional, musical, and spiritual center.