Over the last few years, I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know alt-country player Al Perry. Despite his crusty exterior — I’ve always thought that a great country stage name would be “Crusty Sheets” — Al is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Also one of the funniest and most insightful. One thing we have in common is that we’re both from Phoenix, and loathe the place. (Tucson is better — much smaller, more scenic [lusher desert surrounded by 9,000-foot mountains], not quite as hot, better arts and music scene, more politically progressive.)
Al sat in a couple of times with my last band, Pinche Blues Band, at gigs, and I was surprised that he’s a really good blues player in addition to being a great alt-country player, vocalist, and songwriter.
As is typical in modern-day America (“We’re number one!”), Al is not well rewarded. He lives in a shit hole about a mile-and-a-half southeast of me, albeit in a slightly less scary neighborhood (fewer shootings), though with a much greater infestation of UofA students.
Despite a fair amount of acclaim over the years — he’s toured Europe four times — Al’s music income has nosedived since around 2000, as people have simply downloaded his songs for free. He hasn’t shared much in the remaining source of income for working musicians, touring, as he simply doesn’t do it of late. He occasionally plays clubs in L.A. or New York, but that about it: it’s not a significant source of income.
A couple of years ago he told me that his income from CD sales had fallen 75% over the previous decade. Both of his CDs are now out of print, so his income from them is now zero. We’ve talked about starting a label (with our CDs and those of other artists/bands we know here in town and up in the Bay Area), but what would be the point? It’s a dead business model.
One other thing we have in common is that we both hate self-promotion, which in large part accounts for why neither of us have been commercially successful — you have to be damn lucky or very well connected to succeed without an onerous amount of self-promotion. (If you can stand doing it and are assiduous at it, you’ll probably succeed — regardless of your talent, or lack of it.) Al’s (and my) attitude has always been, “This shit is so good you’d be crazy not to buy it. Recognize it.”
Unfortunately, most people don’t.
You can still catch Al around town (Tucson) occasionally as a solo act, and very occasionally with a full band. Once I get another band going, Al will — I hope — be sitting in with us on a regular basis.
In the meantime, you can catch a lot of his new stuff on Youtube. He’s written a couple hundred songs, the vast majority unrecorded, but he’s putting up new material on Youtube seemingly every week or two.
Here are a few lines from one of Al’s best songs, “Little by Little”:
Livin’ with a crazy person since I’ve been livin’ by myself
Got me a big old house
But it seems just like a cell
Without no reason
To ever leave my chair
Checkin’ out the four walls
With a blank and vacant stare
The rest of it is just as funny. The self-mockery in it is priceless.
Al Perry is an unrecognized national treasure.
(If you’d like to get ahold of Al, you can reach him at email@example.com. Speaking of KXCI, catch Al’s unique and wonderful show, “Clambake,” on Tuesday nights at 10 pm MST [05:00 Wednesday mornings UT].)