Bill Perry

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Guitar player and vocalist Bill Perry, a mainstay on the East Coast blues scene, ranks among the best of a new generation of blues performers. On his first effort for Blind Pig Records, “Fire It Up,” his stunning mastery of the guitar and rough-hewn blues voice are blended into a remarkable package.

Born and raised in the Hudson River town of Chester, New York, Bill Perry was presented his first guitar at the age of 5. “Right away,” he says, “I could play the theme from Batman”. Like Charlie Parker and Jimi Hendrix, Perry’s parental heritage is half Afro-American and half American Indian, and he grew up in a household surrounded by gospel and blues music. His favorite guitarists were Jimi Hendrix, Duane Allman, and Johnny Winter. It was his discovery of their sources of inspiration that led him back to the blues.

Perry took his cues from Albert Collins, B.B. King, and his personal favorite, Freddie King. Although Perry’s guitar style is influenced by his early favorites, he has always sought to develop his own technique, which combines effortless fluidity and incredible attack. “Albert Collins was one of the best of the contemporary blues players who had this really distinctive style. You’d know within three notes, Oh that’s Albert Collins ! I think the right thing to do, to do something different with the blues, to keep the music evolving.”

Bill’s voice, a distinctive rasp full of grit and gravel, is particularly suited to the blues, convincingly conveying the drama and emotion of the music. He puts considerable effort into his phrasing of lyrics and also has the rather unique ability to sing while playing guitar solos.

As a teenager, Bill was sneaking into the legendary Greenwich Village blues club Dan Lynch, and began jamming with all the local blues musicians. Soon after, he put together his first blues band and started gigging in New York and New Jersey clubs.

One night, after playing a set of Hendrix songs at a New Jersey club, Bill was approached by Richie Havens, who asked for his phone number. “One day he called me and asked if I wanted to do a gig with him that weekend. I asked : Where’s the gig and he says : Japan. I’d never flown before on a jet, but next thing you know I’m on a plane to Japan, and I don’t even know his songs! Richie said : Don’t worry, you’ll do fine; And just as we’re ready to go on stage, he whispers to me : Just play like B.B. King behind me. That was it. I did that for four years, from 1988 to 1992.” Bill continues to play with Richie on occasion when he is not touring himself.

In 1989 Perry served as the lead guitarist for Rick Danko and Garth Hudson of The Band as part of the 20th anniversary Woodstock tour of Europe.

In 1992 Bill sent a demo tape to Buddy Fox at Manny’s Car Wash, the venerable New York City blues hotspot. Bill became a mainstay act at Manny’s, hosting their renowned blues jams and developing a huge and loyal following. In 1994 he was signed by local blues label Rave-on Records and recorded his first album, “Love Scars.” Johnny Winter’s manager heard the album and convinced Point Blank/Virgin to buy the master and re-release the CD in 1995.

The critics sat up and took notice. Bill was featured in Guitar Player, which said, “Bill Perry has it all – hip songs, a gritty, emotion-charged voice, devastating tones, and a powerful phrasing delivered with a stranglehold vibrato and knockout attack.” Blues Revue was equally impressed: “On this startling debut, Perry has a commanding presence as a guitarist, singer, and songwriter. His blues are fresh, passionate, and forceful.” The British publication Blues & Rhythm called Perry “shades of Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, without ever losing his own bluesy inventiveness.”

Based on the success of the first CD, Bill then recorded “Greycourt Lightning,” which was released on Point Blank/Virgin in 1998. Jazztimes called the album “a set of fresh originals highlighting Perry’s considerable chops and heartfelt vocals. This sophomore outing ranks right up there with the best contemporary blues offerings.”

On stage, Perry earned a reputation as a mesmerizing performer who plays with passion and excitement. In 1999 the owners of Manny’s Car Wash financed a live recording entitled “High Octane” that was released on Car Wash Records, and became one of the most critically acclaimed live albums of the year. Calling his performance of a Jimi Hendrix tune “nothing short of a masterpiece,” Blues Revue stated, “Here, Perry’s musicianship is truly alive, from the innovative arrangement to the incredible psychedelic fire of his guitar solos.”

Perry’s rousing, crowd-pleasing performance at the Bishopstock Blues Festival in England in 1999 sparked the interest of Blind Pig Records and eventually led to a recording contract. The first album under the deal, " Fire It Up “, was co-produced by Jimmy Vivino of "The Conan O’Brien Show” and demonstrates Bill’s continued growth as an artist.

Of “Fire It Up,” Perry says, “I think it’s my strongest album to date. It’s been great working with Jimmy Vivino. He brought out more in my singing, my vocals are more versatile. He’s also a great arranger. And he also slowed down my guitar playing to where the solos make more sense. Now tell a story instead of being a bunch of flashy notes.”

This latest album is a compelling showcase for Bill Perry’s gutsy vocals, guitar ferocity, and go-for-broke intensity. “Fire It Up” reveals a fully developed artist ready to burn down the house with his incendiary musical talent.

Albums

Fire It Up

Dixiefrog

Release Date: May 18 2001

Bill Perry is part of the New York Blues Scene, which is currently amongst the most creative once across the country. His ancestors are afro-american and red indien, and his influences range from Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Freddie King to Cream and Jimi Hendrix, even to Charlie Parker for his powerful guitar phrasing. His success as a solo artist is as much due to his splendid guitar playing as to his warm, gritty, emotion-charged and easily recognizable voice. With four years as a side man to Richie Havens, lead guitarist for the Woodstock tour of Rick Danko and Garth Hudson of The Band, and Johnny Winter as mentor, Bill Perry’s musical company leaves nothing to be desired – as for his private company, all he has to say is: “My relationships with women are never very easy – but at least they give me topics for my songs” Bill will be in Paris for promotion in the second week of May.

Bill Perry - Fire It Up