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Dave Perkins

July 30, 2006

daveperkins.jpgDave Perkins is mad as heck, and he’s not gonna take it anymore! “Most people living in New York have developed a hard shell to protect their feelings and emotions from being destroyed by the pain and suffering they see around them. What I did with these songs is to force myself to crack that covering around me, and allow myself to become sensitized to the fact that there were people dying and starving, not only in Asia and Northern Africa, but on the streets of New York. I put my children in the place of those children, and it made that anguish real to me for the first time.”

Perkins is probably best known to readers as the producer who’s injected some much-needed juice into the often limp studio performances of Christian rockers such as Randy Stonehill and Rick Cua. What? Records recently issued Perkins’ first solo album, The Innocence. As he sat in a New York hotel room overlooking the mean streets around Times Square, Perkins reflected on the diverse musical influences on The Innocence. “I always loved early British rock `n’ roll–The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Kings–the real street music of England, and the blues from Chicago, because it was the street music of that town.” But around the time his friends became infatuated with The Beatles, Dave had already moved on to studying “the Folkies–Odetta, Dylan, Phil Ochs–so I began to develop a sense of how stories were told in songs.”

As a journeyman guitarist just out of college, Perkins backed a wide- ranging group of artists, including pop tunesmith Carole King, country-rocker Jerry Jeff Walker, and fiddle virtuoso Vassar Clements. His named has been mentioned frequently in the music trades (including this magazine) over the years as being an “explosive live performer” and an “artist to watch for.” Several references have been made to recording sessions as well, yet no album situation materialized until Perkins signed with What?.

Dave says the delay in getting out a record was not for his lack of trying. “If you’ll pardon an old cliché, this really was the right time and place. I worked very hard with my old band in the New York area. We did everything humanly possible, and maybe even beyond, to get a deal, and doors just would not open. But now, with this group of musicians and this batch of songs, the timing is perfect. By the grace of God, all the doors opened.”

Although Dave Perkins feels an affinity for the “message” music of artists such as U2, Simple Minds, and The Call, he hesitates to link himself with any one camp. “All music is really message music, isn’t it? Music is a communicative element that sends some kind of a signal. As an artist, I try not to edit myself on what I put into my songs. I have very strong spiritual beliefs, and I have strong socio-political beliefs, and they are deeply ingrained into my writing. Love and rage exist side by side in there as well. But this is not crusade music, simply an honest expression of what I feel and see.”

The title track of The Innocence displays the best microcosm of the range of feelings between love and rage. Perkins says the song was born out of the experience of sending the kids off to school for the first time. “All the elements beyond the cocoon of the home began to affect them–they saw that the world at large is not a warm, safe place. Fear, insecurity–all the least desirable elements of our society–were introduced. I was outraged at their loss of innocence. It’s the all-time crime against humanity that they had to be exposed to pain, war, greed, and death on a scale that God, in His love, never intended. It grieved me for my all children, not just my own.”

The Innocence contains other somber tracks, such as “Catacombs,” which deals with believers meeting in secret, and “Harvest Home,” which finds the field white and poses the question, “Who will bring the harvest home?”. Musically, the jangling folk-pop of Perkins’ early days is balanced with brooding, European-based ’80s rock. On the inner sleeve, Dave is pictured in silhouette, against a gray New York skyline. Despite these bleak overtones, the album is ultimately very positive, and its author hopeful. “My hopes comes directly from God,” affirms Perkins, “and that hope really forms the core of my life. I trust in God, and in that trust, I find a way to look forward in life, without overwhelming dismay.”

Bruce A. Brown

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