I had never heard of Rain Perry before receiving A White Album for review, but I gave the album a chance as I try to always do and…holy hot goodness, where has she been hiding all these years?
Apparently, out in the open. With numerous albums and a significant profile in some circles, Rain Perry is this week’s Fervor Coulee New Favourite Whom I Should Have Encountered Years Ago.
With a speaking/singing voice reminiscent of Jill Sobule and especially the magical Minton Sparks, the first words of “Melody & Jack” captured the imagination. Creating a fully developed songscape of images in just a few rhymed lines, Perry reflects on her family’s history “about the same year as Emmet Till.” A story told by her mother, this is the introduction to an album examining what it means to be white in 2022.
A brave and unvarnished examination of race, A White Album is comprised of several honest and appealing songs, including covers of Stevie Wonder’s “Visions,” featuring Akina Adderley, and “None of Us Are Free” featuring BettySoo. Several songs reveal the hateful hypocrisy that those of us born of privilege (i.e. white and middle class) realize only too late. “The Money” breaks it down pretty plainly—and it is here that the comparison to poet Winton Sparks is most apparent—as does the album’s closer, a duet with Ben Lee, “This is Water.”
The confessional aspects of A White Album’s songs mark its greatest appeal. The instrumentation is primarily provided by producer Mark Hallman, and I couldn’t locate the promised specific credits on the website, but other folks like Andrew Hardin appear.
A White Album is that rare release where each track is an essential component of the whole, a true concept album whose theme is apparent and presented concisely and successfully. In addition to that already mentioned, also especially appealing is “Yarddogs/Morning Dew,” an original song that liberally borrows from Canadian folksinger Bonnie Dobson’s familiar song, and “Indian Hill, Ohio, 1967.” “What’s Wrong With You” captures the Karen & Chad culture enveloping modern passively-aggressive racism, while “Visions” just needs to be heard.
Out in April, I wanted to review A White Album early to help ensure it receives the oxygen it so richly deserves. Rain Perry has created a folk-pop-rock gem here, one that encourages all to celebrate diversity while recognizing systematic obstacles to equity, and I encourage all to seek out its beauty and challenge.