With such impressive lineage in his genes, it’s easy to question the legitimacy of someone like Elvis Perkins. Growing up the son of actor Anthony Perkins, he surely must have been afforded the luxuries that many of us couldn’t attain, so why believe that someone like him would be able to channel the rustic Americana that’s so prevalent in his work? But after one listen, I was taken with Perkins’ voice, a frail and emotional instrument that clears away any sense of doubt that his format not only feels good, it enhances the weight of his material.
The Doomsday E.P. is an economical and tidy way to discover this. It touches on Perkins’ rustic charms, from the ramble tamble of roadhouse swing numbers, to Sunday morning gospels, and at no point does his approach seem like a gimmick.
The title track you may have heard, either from the full-length debut last spring or from an adoring NPR Morning Edition piece around the same time. It makes two appearances on this extended play, with the second version doubles in length and slowed to the point where it’s become a bona fide delta funeral march. In short: it surpasses the original version.
The four other songs are culled from a session over the summer that took all but two days, but Perkins’ bandmates execute their performances with such old soul passion that they sound perfectly worn. “Gypsy Davy,” which actually sounds more like the Scottish traditional song “Gypsy Laddie” than the Woody Guthrie song, is wonderfully haunting reinterpretation with Elvis coming out of the speakers circa 1935.
“Stop Drop Rock And Roll” points the way back machine to 1956 and gives listeners a genuine stand up bass solo in the middle of its Sun Records shuffle.
The Doomsday E.P. is far from a retro-trip, it’s the work of a contemporary artist who’s found the right vehicle to deliver his material and to match songs with the most effective engine. It just happens that Perkins’ trip rides better in vintage wheels.