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Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry - The Way of Blues

Billie Perry Music

9 songs; Time 46:13; Library Quality

Style: Modern Delta Blues

When a Blues radio DJ from WEFT returned from Mississippi and brought me a copy of Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry’s latest (and sixth) CD, I felt like a young Keith Richards. When Keith met Mick Jagger one of the first times, Mick was holding under his arm imported vinyl record albums from Chess Records in Chicago. Keith knew that meant deep blues.

The same is true with Mississippi native Perry; here comes some deep electric and acoustic blues. His records are not impossible for a Northern boy to get, but, like Mick Jagger, some mail ordering is ordinarily needed to secure a copy. Sadly, you won’t find them at the local record outlet (if you can even find a “local record outlet”).

Bill Perry (not to be confused with the late bluesman of the same name who passed away in 2007) is a Mississippi blues guitarist/singer/song writer. Perry was born in Tula, Mississippi, on land where his ancestors had worked as slaves, and he has been playing Soul, Blues and Gospel for over 40 years.

“The Way of Blues” opens with the romping-boogie title track. Atypical of the rest of the album, it’s performed in the droning poly rhythms associated with the North Mississippi hills musicians. According to the liner notes, the entire CD was recorded, mixed, and mastered at Studio 61 in Clarksdale MS, but the first two tracks sound live.

Track two is titled, “The Way of Blues Pt. II,” and it indeed continues the exact same upbeat party begun in track one. I’m not sure why they split the fun into two tracks. Instrumentally, there are Bill on electric guitar and vocals, a second electric guitar, bass, drums, piano, and harp is added in track two. Sample lyrics, “We play the Blues both day and night / we won’t stop – even for a fight / That’s the Way of the Blues.” Together, we get 8:12 minutes of a smile starting, dance inducing, heart pumping ruckus.

Track three finds Perry solo on acoustic guitar singing 12 bar blues, “Give me a shot of whisky / I’ll play the blues all night.” Titled “A Shot of Whisky,” Perry’s voice sounds like he has indeed enjoyed that water-of-life enough to season his vocals, without taking away his ability to hit high notes when desired. His guitar hits right in the gut as he demands no gin, wine, or beer because “hard liquor is quicker.”

And, speaking of “whisky,” the 12 bar, track five claims a “Bluesman’s best friend has always been “‘Jack, Johnny, or Jim’/ whenever you got a problem, you can always depend on one of them.” While not many experts will tell you that the solution to your problems is drinking whisky, Perry sure sounds convincing as he again is solo on acoustic guitar with lots of single note picking.

The last cut is a wonderful, jazzy piano instrumental departure from the first eight. The double tracked pianist is Perry’s son Bill Perry, Jr. with Shy Perry on bass.

Every track is a solid winner, but I just wish Perry could record under absolute first class conditions, like those afforded Alligator Records artists.

I know labels like “Broke and Hungry Records” and before them “Fat Possum” have done an admirable job of bringing Southern artists to the forefront, but I still feel it a special treat to own a copy of this album.

Perry is far from obscure; as a singer/song writer his career stretches back to Chicago in the early 1970s. He has written for Lil Johnny Taylor, Ted Taylor, and Cash McCall. He worked for Phil Chess as a studio musician. His career has taken him all over the US and overseas. He toured for five months in China and a year later spent three months in Jakarta, Indonesia. He has played at the Apollo Theater in New York, and the Palladium in Hollywood, California. Bill was one of the first singers to appear on “Soul Train.” He is a regular at The Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale MS and has played often at the Rum Boogie in Memphis TN. Rum Boogie displays one of Bill’s guitars on their wall.

Bill also teaches blues for the Delta Blues Museum Arts and Education Program in Clarksdale MS. Bill accompanied the students to the Chicago Blues Festival in 2006, and also to the B.B. King workshop at Mississippi Valley State University.

Reviewer James “Skyy Dobro” Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ and Blues Blast contributor. His weekly radio show “Friends of the Blues” can be heard each Thursday from 4:30 – 6:00pm on WKCC 91.1 FM in Kankakee, IL
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