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Bishop Perry Tillis – Too Close
Review by G.P. Bennett
don’t get much more authentic than this!
Being as superficial as I am, I bought this album purely on the basis
that the front cover looked brilliant. For me, there was no way that this
man could be anything other than real quality, you don’t get to
look that messed up, aged and dying without having had some real life
experiences and troubles, which let’s be honest, is what makes a
great blues artist.
Perry Tillis was 'discovered' by a Swedish music enthusiast in search
of 'The Roots' of blues music, and that's exactly what he found.
Recorded over a few sessions (in Tillis' run down shack of a house) in
1971 and 1972, this album is a great find for anybody who cares about
this music and it’s history.
Steeped in Religion and Gospel attitude, but accompanied by some almost
raucous guitar (both electric and acoustic). Tillis' voice is soulful
yet necessarily close to breaking point on many occasions and it has a
strange uniqueness - it doesn't really remind me of anybody else which
is quite unusual in itself (he doesn’t even sound like himself on
a few tracks).
Along with the religious overtones, there is political comment in the
Bishop's song choice too (Kennedy Moan and Tell me why you
like Roosevelt) but there is much more 'belief' in tracks like God
Don’t Like it and Do You Know the Man.
You can really feel the front porch atmosphere this was recorded in, so
much so that on a couple of songs there seems to be the sound of a creaking
rocking chair accompanying Tillis (either that or his pet pig is grunting
in the background, both feasible I would imagine)
The title track tells of a man on the brink of a death and the Bishops
delivery convinced me that he was going to instantly drop dead as soon
as the last note is played, moving stuff. There is also a really nice
version of Nobody’s Fault But Mine – which has been
done to death but still works here.
The alternating of electric slide stuff and the more rootsy acoustic sound
is a nice touch too, I don’t think anyone will get bored of listening
to this collection of songs as it has all the necessary ingredients to
make, the now deceased (November last year aged 85) Bishop Perry Tillis
into a posthumous legend. Remember the name, there promises to be a few
more unearthed gems to follow this one.
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