When we last left off with his 2009 release "Down 2 Bone, Chuck Perrin's constantly shifting musical direction, along with the course of the country/world overflowing with looming uncertainty, could only be conjectured. With "Down 2 Bone," Perrin employed his past musical styles ('60s folk) and ('70s country) in order address the upheaval of an overdrawn country in search of purpose. The first three songs of his latest excursion "The Yearn," signal that we remain in rough waters and still searching through the wreckage as people and a society. Between the tangles of Larry Mitchell's outsized blues guitar, "It's an Asshole World" reflects the grind that we all know too well along with the attendant hostile forces that threaten and attack from any angle. Initially, "Blood" came across as reheated Cormac McCarthy. Later, I read that the song was not dark matter fiction, but a reminder about the 2011 tragedy that happened 80 miles away in a Tucson Safeway parking lot.... and goes on and on with the latest campus shooting in Flagstaff or the one in Santa Barbara we kinda forgot about. The song rides out on "20 Feet from Stardom" gospel backing vocals that could have been supported Linda ("What a Man") Lyndell. The Tropicalia Cubist "Living the Life" continues the cacophonous, agitated and protracted vibe that courses through a frequently confrontational country that has pretty much an abundance of everything, but understanding. These opening songs are not simple-minded knee jerk indictments against predictable forces and atmospheric turbulence, but a harder look on how we treat others.
In spite of it all, Perrin maintains his indefatigable hope and declares in "Touchstones." that he's ready to scamper up metaphoric mountains like Gary Synder and Kerouac in The Dharma Bums. The song sent me back to a Firestone Car Care in 1996 Rochester Hills when I heard "Don't Worry Baby" by the Beach Boys reflecting off the large plate glass window which opened up to the vibrant colors of main street. In that moment, Cap’n Bri’n steered away all doubt like his music so frequently does. In "Touchstones," Perrin channels the 1972 Brian who would listen incessantly to Randy Newman's "Sail Away" album. The lyrics presents the fulcrum mantra where the wishful yearning "Feel like everything’s gonna be all right" tips overs to actuality “Everything is all right." The song bubbles upon a passage of Rob Whitlock's Hammond B3 to a place tinged with jukebox colors.
"Hiding in Plain Sight" brings back the sultry R&B we last softly heard on the heartfelt ":44 of Love." I could hear this duet with Steph Johnson playing in the Kohl's dressing rooms when buying a pair of Seals and Crofts pants...I meant Croft & Barrow trousers for work. Seriously, this would not feel out of place piped in at a moonlight madness sale or on one of the many permutations of adult contemporary radio. Moreover, this number hints that all of life does not need to be analyzed or documented, life just needs to be life.
Encapsulating one of Perrin's ongoing themes, "Wasting Time" challenges us to stop going through the motions and squandering resources before the stretching out into a zen-dom chorus whipped into alignment by the tightrope bass and overlaid Doobie Brothers guitar decals. Perrin's forthright voice, finding the rhythm in and out of the routine, evokes the enduring hope for something better while echoing the "What's Going On" ecological consciousness advocated by Marvin Gaye and Pope Francis. Without a trace of weary resignation, Perrin conveys that life is about transformation and not haplessly flailing around proclaiming how we think it should be:
the old ways no longer function/
we must explore some different paths/
poke around maybe take some chances/
what’s going on is not where it’s at
"Let This Be the Moment Now"
"Peace," spreads out with its sunrise flutes and enters the mystical realms once frequently visited with his sister Mary in his late '60s work cherished around the world. This musical era of the Perrins is slated to be re-released in the form of a lavish and extensive box set in Korea by Beatball Records that has been years in the making. In summer of 2015, Spain's Mapache Records presented the "first ever vinyl reissue" of their 1968 debut album "Brother & Sister." Between guitars, bongos, the aforementioned flutes and a Thom Bell-like production, Perrin returns to his familiar folk leitmotiv of seeking the essence and appreciating radiance of life despite the trials and tribulations. "Still Shaking My Head" is all about poetic execution and delivery. This is where a freewheelin' '60s folk hootenanny meets the best barbed moments of a '90s poetry slam. Like the sloped and skittering topography of Perrin's Southern California, the song is slightly askew, but infinitely compelling. Here Perrin presents a coiled world that you don't want venture out in, however, moving forward is the only way to defeat the destabilizing influences. Riding atop Dennis Caplinger's banjo, the song opens up like funny car and punches out a searing couplet of tragicomedy relief before spinning out of the measures to the sound of skronking and skidding sax.
If others in his generation are coasting it on out, he is headed in the other direction, wherever that may lead with a flipped odometer. "I am approaching 70 and still creating music with the same ferocity I did when I was 18." asserts Perrin on his web site.
Perrin rides this momentum, both self-created and reflected back by the San Diego jazz community he has helped foster at the jazz performance space dizzy's which is as much a state of mind as a location. From a showroom of a jet ski rentals operation by day, Perrin offers all-ages access, free parking and most of all--a heightened awareness.
"Dark on You Now"
In the succinct and impressionistic "Sorrow Comes," Perrin renders a sketch that refuses to stay content in representational musically holding patterns. He acknowledges grief and sorrow like Poe's Raven, but then ascends the cello strings of the (beginner's) mind to Thoreauian "castles in the air" and the layered lights of the universe. The closer "Unplug" brings us crashing back to the digital dominant society we find ourselves in. Perrin, taking an existentialist perspective, questions if all this split attention will add up to anything enduring along with considering the long term effects on our senses, soul and spirit...zip, zap and stay somewhat tuned.
"Both Sides Now"
Regardless of whatever may transpire, Perrin will continue nobly tilting at windmills, exploring conditions and acting as a catalyst for "better world" change through his songcraft and commitment to musical community. The Yearn presents his latest flourishing music sweeping in from different directions and making the necessary transformations before proceeding courageously outwards into the dimensions between dark and light.