Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Music You Should Know: Perkasie

I often ask my friend Jeff Royer at Fly Magazine to fill me in on any local bands that he's discovered and is really enjoying. About a year ago he mentioned the band Perkasie, and had them send me a copy of their EP. I was pleasantly surprised by what I heard from this Lancaster-based band. And I was hooked.

Now the band has a full-length CD out and I can't believe I've waited this long to review it. The self-titled disc, Perkasie, is, as the kids used to say, "all that and more." But that's just part of the equation. To really get a feel for this band, you MUST see them live. A Perkasie show is a high energy show characterized by a frenetic cacophony of ear-pleasing, foot-stomping "old timey" music. For a group of college kids they sure now how to perform; from Kate Foust's sassily sultry lead vocals to Alex Wash's devil-may-care assault on the piano (that guy can flat out play!), this is a band that loves to perform, and it shows. The live interaction and energy of their performance means Fun with a capital F. The band is rounded out by drummer/vocalist Dominic Billett, bassist Danny Sadler, and guitarist Ben Roth, all of whom contribute mightily to the whole known as Perkasie. Throw in some friends (Matt Kelly and Dillon Reichel) on washboard, mandolin, and a few other instruments, and you've got a musical melange that just won't quit. 

The CD is characterized by music that sounds as if it were from another time and another place, but still very fresh and relevant. Foust and Wash sound great on the slow-burning lead track, "Barstowe Station," as two young lovers rekindle an old romance. The band honky-tonks along with "Ginger Sobs," a musically happy tune that relates an ironic tale of loss. 

Foust then plays the pleading chanteuse on "Girl Upon Your Arm,"
To be the girl upon your arm, to be the one that gets to claim your love I'm so addicted to your charms, I'm so impossible, emotional.
Foust and Wash again trade lines on the steamy, "Down By the Riverside," with vocals that match up well. Then comes the wry and laid back "Beers and Grills," which sounds like something being sung from a front porch rocking chair.

The pace picks up again with the period-piece "The Fightin' 13th," with it's tale of young love and wartime loss. This is not the kind of music or lyrical content you would expect from a bunch of college students.

Oh poor girl you're all alone with no big man to call your own but backpacking he'll come back home and you'll sing glory hallelujah that day (AMEN!) but romance is a poison drop, and when those tears from your eyes stop, then down the drain the ring will drop, disgracing his memory.

Things slow down again with "The Dead Man's Prayer," on into the beautiful "Silly Girl!" displaying the bands versatility, both vocally and thematically:
love is the salt, it is the wound
and you burn me like you do
though i'm hurting, i'm still holding on to you
A bit of slow-moving old-school piano driven country emerges in "The Politeness Song," and the album then closes out with the duet, "Old Designs," a song of memory and regret.

This collection of music could easily be the soundtrack to a Coen Brothers film. It's difficult to make comparisons here, but perhaps the best I can do is that the "feel" of the music is akin to the Decemberists, but with more energy and less pretension. And even that doesn't even come close to hititng the mark. Thoughtful, yet playful lyrics, firmly nestled on a bed of well-crafted music. You might think that a disc recorded in a college studio (Millersville University's CRIS Studio) might lack quality, but this CD is a testament to both the talent of the musicians involved, and the music recording program at MU. A very professional recording from start to finish.

So contact the band and get this disc and enjoy it, but mostly you need to get out and see this band live. Your next chance will be on March 8th at the Chameleon, along with Slimfit and Madi Diaz. Hope to see you there!


Hiram said...

Perkasie rocks! what a great crew.

Chet said...

You got this 100%, Ken -- great review of a great band. I just LOVE these guys & see 'em every chance I get!