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Rain Perry's ‘The White Album’ tackles race issues through a personal lens

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Photo by Timothy Teague

Rain Perry of Upper Ojai. 

By Kimberly Rivers Ojai Valley News reporter
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For me, the most effective songs are always the ones that are personal,” said Ojai musician Rain Perry, during a week of dizzying activity in advance of the release of her sixth full-length record, titled  “The White Album.”

The public is invited to Zoom in to “The White Album’s” release party, on Saturday, April 16, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., at https://bit.ly/3uFImar.

“This is the most topical record I’ve ever done,” said Perry. “I’m a confessional singer-songwriter. I write about things coming up for me personally.” Her most recent releases were inspired by the Thomas Fire, using that experience — of her studio burning to the ground and neighbors losing homes — as a “metaphor for the cultural fires we’ve all been dealing with.” This new album is a progression of that.

“This record specifically addresses questions that have been coming up and not being wrestled with in a productive way,” she said. “How do we talk about race in America?” She started writing the songs for the album at the beginning of the pandemic.

The album officially will go live on April 15 from Precipitous Records. It is the fifth project Perry has recorded in Austin, Texas, with producer Mark Hallman, who also played nearly all the instruments on the album.

This is the beginning of a much larger project Perry is creating with Kim Maxwell of Ojai. “We are developing it as a theatrical musical performance,” that is a sequel to her previous look-back at her childhood, through a new lens. 

“On one hand, (there are) people who don’t want to talk about (race) at all. But we have to talk about it and, hopefully, we can talk about it in a way that can be productive; that’s what I’m attempting to do with this record,” said Perry. “In a way, this record is a sequel” to the first album she cut with Hallman — “Cinder Block Bookshelves” — based on her “memories of a hippie childhood.” But with this new album, “I’m looking back at the same childhood, family life, through the lens of race. I’m not making any grand pronouncements,” but she said she is exploring “what happens if I look through this lens? What will I see? These songs are what I saw.”

She describes “Lady of the Harbor” on the album as “an aspirational song of what we could be.” She used the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty and worked it into lyrics. The song features several Ojai-based talents. Jim Calire composed the string arrangements, performed by cellist Virginia Kron and violinist Kerenza Peacock. 

Perry describes the songs as a “lush and beautiful, anthemic song about being a nation of immigrants, with a choir of girls who are refugees.” The Pihcintu Multicultural Chorus, based in Maine, will record its own version of Perry’s song.

“Music and the arts hit us on an emotional level,” Perry said. “Music has the power to coalesce people around an idea, to change minds.”

In her process of exploring these issues and questions about her childhood and experiences and noticing her experience as a white woman, Perry said she shifted to a deeper understanding.

“Yes, everyone is equal, so what do we have to talk about? Not everyone has had equal treatment and not everyone is at an equal place right at this moment, and that is what has to change. This record takes me through my learning process.”

Perry said she is hopeful, but she’s not letting anyone off the hook. “The bottom line is, we can do it,” she said. “We white people have got it in us to look with an open heart without being defensive,” and to understand that “we’ve benefited from things we didn’t ask for, but we did get. I can handle that. What can I do now to be part of making this fair now? That’s the grand goal of this project.”

 

 

 

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