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Bishop Perry Tillis – Too Close
(Birdman Records)
Review by G.P. Bennett

You 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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