Elvis Perkins In Dear Land

Elvis Perkins in Dearland Perkins has indeed been known as Elvis since birth; it's not a moniker he pointedly adopted a la Mr. Costello. His father was the late actor Anthony Perkins; his mother Berry Berenson, an actress and noted photographer, whose work appeared regularly in Life magazine. Perkins was raised in Los Angeles and New York and took to music at an early age, perhaps an inevitability if Elvis happens to be your name. He briefly learned the saxophone—very briefly, he emphasizes—before picking up the guitar in high school and taking lessons with Prescott Niles, one-time bassist for the Knack. While he played in rock bands, Perkins also developed an interest in the classical guitar, and began to compose music in both idioms. He wrote poetry too, and that gradually morphed into lyrics. After a short stint at college, he began to cultivate the idiosyncratic, highly personalized style that distinguishes Ash Wednesday.

"It's been a long journey, long in the coming," Perkins admits, when he discusses the album, and it took a serious detour on September 11, 2001, when his mother, a passenger on the ill-fated American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles, perished in the attack on New York City's twin towers, a day before the ninth anniversary of his father's passing. Ash Wednesday has been shaped in part by this tragic event and its aftermath, but Perkins hasn't single-mindedly fashioned a reaction or a response to it. He prefers the poetic to the polemical; his lyrics often have a whimsical quality, their melancholy aspects counterbalanced with an undercurrent of hope. He repeatedly returns to images of sleep and dreams and flight, as if we might all wake up at once and find ourselves in a far better place. One needs no knowledge of his family history to appreciate —and empathize—with these haunting songs.