PUNK COWPUNCHER: When the phrase "country punk" first gained popularity in the early '80's, Tucson's Al Perry was in the forefront. Like many movements, country punk was soon invaded by paper tiger posers with bolo ties and greased back DA's. Far more concerned with music than music fashion, Perry embodies a true country punk aesthetic where passion and heartache meet irony and humor. It isn't unusual to see mohawks and cowboy hats alike bopping to the beat at an Al Perry show.
Losin' Hand, the latest release from Al Perry and the Cattle, nods more toward the Bakersfield sound of the '60s than moshpits. This is a heart-and-soul homage to Buck Owens, one of Perry's major influences.
Backed up by longtime bandmate Dave Roads on bass, Peter Catalanotte on drums, and the amazing Neil Harry on pedal steel guitar on Losin' Hand, Perry delivers a collection of songs that would do Buck proud. The CD reflects a new way of working for Perry.
"I don't believe in writer's block anymore," Perry says. "I've taken a more disciplined approach to songwriting where I'm writing every day. Instead of writing an album's worth of songs, I wrote a lot of songs and narrowed it down to the ones I thought were the strongest."
It paid off. The songs on Losin' Hand showcase Perry and his band at their best. The dry wit of Perry's lyrics are perfectly complemented by the combination of the stripped- down style of the music. Simplicity was the creative direction he wanted to explore.
"A lot of bands want to throw in everything but the kitchen sink when they record," Perry says. "Buck Owens could express so much with just three chords."
Perry says he'd like to emulate lyricist Harlan Howard's ability to paint a picture in a few short lines. Howard wrote quite a bit with Owens and continues to be a major talent in the Nashville scene, with his songs now being recorded by The Judds and others.
"I wish I could say I learned to play guitar from an old blues player from the wrong side of the tracks, but it just isn't true. I grew up listening to '60s garage bands, the Kinks and of course The Beatles--I still love that stuff--didn't listen to much in the '70s until the Sex Pistols came along and shook everything up."
In the independent spirit of early punk, Perry decided to forego having someone else put out Losin' Hand and financed the project himself on his own label, Addled Records. He'll also finance a tour in California and Texas. One of his shows at the Palomino was an L.A. Weekly pick of the week, with entire families showing up to catch Perry's set.
You can help Al Perry and the Cattle celebrate the release of this excellent new album this Friday, November 10, at Club Congress. Rugburns and The Almighty Honeywagon open and a mere $4 will get you through the door.
In the meantime, if you want to hear Losin' Hand, tune into 97.5 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, where it's been getting regular airplay, and on 96 Rock. But I strongly suggest going to the record store to pick up a copy for your own collection.
CONCERT NOTES: Way Cool Music/MCA recording artists Becky Sharp perform at Club Congress on Sunday, November 12. The band hails from Baton Rouge, and is currently on tour in support of a self-titled album. Starcrunch opens; tickets are $2.
Andy M. Stewart and Gerry O'Beirne appear at the Southwest Center for Music on Wednesday, November 15. Scotland's best-known classic songwriter and interpreter of traditional songs, Stewart promises to present an evening of Celtic songs long to remember. He's also a humorous storyteller, providing entertaining introductions to his songs. O'Beirne will back-up on guitar as well as sing a few songs during the evening. It's been a while since they've been to Tucson. For ticket info call 884-1220 or 327-4809.
On Wednesday, November 15, Chick Cashman the Swinging Cowboy presents Wanda Jackson and Rosie Flores at Club Congress. In the early years, Wanda worked with another young entertainer who was just getting started, some guy named Elvis Presley. Elvis encouraged Wanda to try her hand at rock and roll, and her first national hit was a rockin' song entitled "Let's Have a Party." Wanda is recognized as one of the truly great rock-a-billy singers throughout the world.
Flores has been a key figure on the alternative-country scene since the mid-1980s. Her fourth album, Rockabilly Filly, is out on High Tone Records. Flores cites Jackson as one of her primary influences, so this should be quite a show.
Chick brings you the 1950s you didn't see on Happy Days. As if Rosie and Wanda weren't enough, Chick will present his usual burlesque show, and he's promised "a few surprises." Sounds dangerous.
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