Anat, Elvis, and Jenny

By JON GARELICK  |  July 30, 2007

Perkins is 31, and Ash Wednesday has been a long time coming. When I get him on the phone, he tells me about two aborted stays at Brown University, and a time when he lived with some of his current bandmates (all former Bruins) in North Smithfield, Rhode Island. That was before setting off on a year and a half of opening dates as Elvis Perkins in Dearland for the likes of Okkervil River, Dr. Dog, and the Pernice Brothers. (The MFA show is with Dr. Dog.) He says that though the songs are partly about his parents, they’re about lots of other things as well. As for his lyrics, he says that he was first inspired to write by the title poem of Nabokov’s Pale Fire: “Maybe because — and I don’t think I knew this or even cared at the time — it’s not really just a poem, but a multi-dimensional poem written by a character.” So does he write his songs autobiographically or “in character”? “I would say some combination. Writing any sort of prose or poetry perhaps one adopts some kind of character that’s outside of their commonly understood familial selves — some personality or character that looses itself from the mundane and the limitations of our personalities and our family roles.”

Maybe the important thing to remember about Perkins’s work is what he sings in the album’s final song, “Good Friday,” over a slowly cycling Lennon piano: “No one will harm you/Inside this song.”

The fascinating unclassifiable violinist Jenny Scheinman (a regular with Bill Frisell and, these days, Lucinda Williams) returns to the Regattabar on August 8 with an exciting quartet: downtown NYC drummer Jim Black, bassist Todd Sickafoose, and guitar polymath Nels Cline, currently a member of Wilco. Scheinman says to expect more extroverted improvisations than on her last few solo albums. “Nels and I played for a long time together in the Scott Amendola Band, and we’d stand facing each other on stage right and stage left and always get into some mischief where we’d egg each other on. Jim also has a similar — I don’t know what you’d call it — radiance or excitability that Nels has. And Scott is one of these musicians who listens to Radiohead — that rich wave of sound that’s powerful and grows slowly. You know the stuff.”

ELVIS PERKINS | Dunkin’ Donuts Newport Folk Festival, Fort Adams State Park, Newport | August 5 | 866.468.7619 | Museum of Fine Arts, 365 Huntington Ave, Boston | August 8 | 617.369.3306 | ANAT COHEN | JVC Newport Jazz Festival | August 11 | Regattabar, Charles Hotel, 1 Bennett St, Cambridge | September 13 | 617.395.7757 | JENNY SCHEINMAN | Regattabar | August 8

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