Bocephus King
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Bocephus King

Nelson, British Columbia, Canada | INDIE

Nelson, British Columbia, Canada | INDIE
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"Willie Dixon God Damn! Review"

Seven years after 2004’s mesmerizing All Children Believe in Heaven, the enigmatic Jamie (Bocephus King) Perry graces us with his newest offering, a soul-shaking blend of rock, country, cabaret and R&B like only he could have concocted. Opener The Beast You Are hovers between morose and upbeat moments of folk, Broken Down Rock ’n’ Roll Machine is an anthemic blast of country-rock that soars on slide guitar and horns, and the title track is a waltzy shuffle that would serve as the soundtrack to a high-noon showdown in an old western flick. Following the Eastern-tinged stunner That’s Not Love, the album loses a bit of steam in its second half, but one could argue this is where you’ll find Bocephus King in “deep cut” mode, dishing out a sizable helping of open wounds on Acetylene Alley and closer So Many Hells. - The Vancouver Sun


"Willie Dixon God Damn!"

Bocephus King, aka Jamie Perry, has spent time as a professional songwriter. So one thing that you can always count on with a Bocephus King record – five so far, as well as the latest Willie Dixon God Damn! (Tonic Records) – was/is near-faultless songcraft: tunes with beginnings, middles and ends, smart lyrics, sharp hooks, arrangements filled with subtle touches and dramatic flourishes.

Mind you, I’d forgotten about all this in the seven years between the last BK record, All Children Believe in Heaven, and this one. (A clue to that seven year gap might be found in “Acetylene Alley”: “I went down Acetylene Alley/With a blowtorch/I got burned”.) And so let’s just say that Willie Dixon God Damn! is a welcome return. Perry’s voice is an uncommon mix of grit and warmth, the hooks are plentiful, the songs varied in tone and temper and genre (there is even some Middle and Eastern Eastern noodling in parts).

But all the tracks share Perry’s ingrained skill at penning a song. I love the way “The Beast In You” builds into something entirely different from its beginnings, and I love the sentiment behind “Broken Down Rock’n'Roll Machine”; “The Myth of Philadelphia” has an epic-ness that makes it the centrepiece of WGDM!, while the title track has a low-down junkyard feel. The second half loses some of the momentum as the tracks become slower and bluesier (and longer; “That’s Not Love” is over seven minutes, the dire “The Job” over six) , but the record ends with two of its strongest songs, “The Epiphany of the Saints” and “So Many Hells”.

Bocephus King remains an anomaly in the Vancouver music scene – a true songwriter who can’t be pigeon-holed, and who has steadfastedly followed his own weirdly digressive career path. It’s good to have him back. - The Snipe


"On this fifth record, Bocephus King delivers some of the best work of his career."

It starts rather disconcertingly, as ‘The Beast You Are’ sounds very much like Joe Henry. The voices are almost identical and the music isn’t too far away from the excellent ‘Trampoline’, he does a similar thing with mixing musical forms, here vibes and harmonica rub shoulders with the singing saw. The song lurches from sophistication to raw, it is an infectiously celebratory sound.

The impact is compounded by ‘Broken Down Rock’ N’ Roll Machine’ which mixes a rock swagger with the lonesome cry of the pedal steel with a typically left field lurch towards Klezmer in the middle, sounding a bit like Bruce playing at WOMAD.

BK incorporates all sorts of influences and instruments, the xueng (we’ll come to that later) along with djemba, congas, flamenco guitar and castanets (on the title track). The violin and congas that call ‘That’s Not Love’ into being sounds more middle-eastern than west coast Canadian. Even when tackling rock, as on ‘The Myth of Philadelphia’ (which sounds like the Hold Steady on a night out with Elvis Costello) it’s to his credit that these non-traditional elements don’t sound crammed in or alien.

The world he creates is a big one with room for everyone. On ‘Your Great Big Beautiful Heart’ the xueng (if you are having difficulty imagining what it sounds like just watch ‘Kung Fu Hustle’ – and in any case just watch ‘Kung Fu Hustle’) is thrown over the song like a blanket of flapping birds. Over thirteen long tracks there are moments of longueurs where the attention drifts, the closing ‘Little Hells’ suffers no such problems in its nine minutes, it elegantly weaves zither, guitars, vibes and pedal steel through the kind of revisionist Country Phosphorescent has been claiming as his own.

It all finishes with a collage of spoken word fragments over a loping country tune; it’s a perfect way to close. BK makes it seem possible that music can be the connective tissue between cultures. - Americana UK


"Bocephus King Review"

The fourth release from Canadian artist Bocephus King is easily his most ambitious work to date. It's also his most successful, a stunning tour de force that echoes Leon Russell's fusion of country, blues, and gospel. Opening cut "St. Hallelujah" sets the template that the rest of the tracks will follow: it's a complicated mélange of mournful guitar, country & western shuffling drums, a wryly embittered lyric, and unusual production touches (in this case, gurgling Erasure-esque synth pulsations throughout the ten-minute track). King had presented himself as an erudite wordsmith on previous recordings, but he outdoes himself on this album, spilling rhymes as complex and with as bitterly religious a sense of metaphor as Bob Dylan used to offer. Comparisons to Dylan should not be offered casually, but this one is warranted: All Children Believe in Heaven is King's Blonde on Blonde, sprawling and inspired, perhaps too much so for its own good. The productions are busy and bombastic, the lyrics inscrutable in their particulars but not in their overall message. That message -- that anyone promising miracles or salvation in this hopelessly diseased and drug-dependent world is a snake-oil huckster -- is relentless to the point of wearying, but the music is vibrant and diverse enough for it not to detract. King is able to integrate swatches of Philly soul ("Hollywood") and loungy exotica ("Lullaby Blues") into his fabric without them seeming out of place -- "Americana" in its truest sense. "Wreck of the Century," the lead single, is best of the lot in its epic avalanche of sound and neatly summarized refrain. Another highlight, the gospel-rock thriller "Jesus the Bookie," is miles beyond anyplace Lyle Lovett ever wandered within the genre; the subsequent titular instrumental that closes the disc is necessary just to let everyone blow off their accumulated steam. All Children Believe in Heaven is an astonishingly powerful listen, a potential soundtrack for an unmade Jim Jarmusch film, suggesting that Bocephus King could be as canonized as Dylan and Springsteen if his visionary material weren't so desperately obscure. Indeed, this album was completed in 2003 but did not hit the U.S. at all until 2005, an unfortunate burial of what should easily have been one of the year's most highly regarded albums. - All Music


"Beyond Hank"

Having lost a year of his life there, Jamie Perry will argue that no place on earth is as hellishly strange as Nashville, Tennessee. Convinced he’d have no trouble making it as a songwriter, the Canadian artist moved to the country music capital in 1990 at age 19. Through family connections, he landed a job at a Music City hit factory. On his first day of work, he quickly realized he had no idea what he was doing.

“I’d sent them some Johnny Cash-type stuff, and they seemed to like it,” says the unapologetically scruffy singer. “I guess they figured they could polish them up. But once I got down there, all I heard were the most brutal insults on a daily basis about how terrible I was.”

Recognizing Perry was more interested in paying homage to Hank Williams than coming up with the next Garth Brooks smash, his fellow songwriters started referring to him by the same nickname used by Hank Sr.’s son, and it ended up sticking.

“I was writing all these Hank Williams songs and drinking a lot,” Perry recalls. “They’d come in and be like, ‘What have you got for us today, Bocephus?’ Their whole point was, ‘I’ve heard this song you just wrote 50,000 times. What else do you have?’”

Despite the cracks, the job had its interesting aspects. “Nashville is the craziest city that I have ever been to — and that includes L.A.,” Perry says. “You had these successful songwriter guys walking around in giant rabbit-skin coats. And I’ve never seen anything like the drug use. If there was someone you met who thought you were even partially cool, they’d just whip out whatever they had. It was really nuts.”

Since returning to Vancouver from his Nashville misadventures, Perry has released four albums under the name Bocephus King. His past efforts — Joco Music, Small Good Thing and The Blue Sickness — found the singer at the same end of the blue-collar Americana whiskey bar as Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, and Green On Red’s Dan Stuart. On his new album, the hyper-ambitious All Children Believe In Heaven, Perry shoots for something more.

“I’ve been compared to other artists in the past, and I consciously tried to make sure that didn’t happen with this record,” he says. “For example, the Tom Waits growly thing that I used to have is gone — maybe because I used to chain-smoke but I don’t anymore. I really wanted to make sure the songs were out there for people to judge on their own.”

Long fascinated by filmmakers, Perry sees the fabulously lush album as a kind of homage to soundtrack sculptors such as Angelo Badalamenti and Ennio Morricone. The album kicks off with “St. Hallelujah”, a ten-minute-plus whirl of desert-scorched guitar, stoned-on-Floyd keyboards, and ghosts-of-the-Andrews Sisters backing vocals. From there, he pulls the rocking chair out onto the pine-splintered porch for “Stella Bella Blue”, plays space cowboy on the flamenco-tinted “Goodnight Forever Montgomery Clift”, and blends calypso country with two dashes of cocktail-nation kitsch on “Lullabye Blues”.

The disc’s bong-bombed vision of Americana is — in a delicious bit of irony — entirely too weird for Nashville. Perry has no problem with that. The man who was once written off as too old-school for Music City has become hell-bent on dragging country into surreal new territory. As much as he’d still love to go out drinking with Hank and Johnny, Perry somehow sounds more interested in the likes of David Lynch and Federico Fellini.

“Movies have become my biggest influence — that largely explains the lushness in the production on All Children Believe In Heaven,” he explains. “I’m after that trippy high that you sometimes get from watching a really great film. I also love that moviemakers are still out there pushing boundaries. I mean, let’s face it — the best things in music have already been done.” - No Depression


"All Children Believe in Heaven"

On this follow-up to the acclaimed previous release, The Blue Sickness, the enigmatic Vancouver native continues to break boundaries between traditional songwriting and modern aesthetics. From ten-minute opener, ‘St. Hallelujah’, the most welcome difference is that King has put aside many of the poses that had him pegged as a Tom Waits wannabe. Although he still comes across as a figure straight out of cinema noir, the emphasis on melody within his personal take on the blues makes for a much more rewarding listening experience. With its masses of swirling guitars, ‘St. Hallelujah’, indeed sets the bar high for the rest of the album, but King keeps pace for the most part, especially on the Dylan-meets-Phil Spector bombast of, ‘Wreck of
the Century’, and the dense Americana narrative, ‘Goodnight Forever
Montgomery Clift.’ If there is one major drawback to the album, it’s that King may be too ambitious with his songwriting. However, that’s not exactly a fair reason to chastise him. It‚s just that in a roots music world where perfect simplicity is the ultimate goal above all else, albums such as All Children Believe In Heaven take some getting used to. Perhaps it will help to change that.
- Exclaim


"Bocephus King"

Bocephus King displayed a similarly encyclopedic taste in musical styles as seems the norm these days among talented and clever young musicians immersed all their lives in popular culture. But King was all about the music, and the music was all about fun. His lyrics, on the rare occasions that they are decipherable, seemed incidental. King and his band are about groove, and convincingly capturing the feel of certain reminscent styles. There was often a sense of fun in King's references to klezmer, stripper music, and country, for example but it was always approached with seriousness, respect, and solid if unexceptional musicianship (except for the remarkable double bass player). In the first half, King revealed a more cabaret sensibility, exchanging lengthy quips with band members, especially his versatile utility instrument player. In the second act, there was less talk and more attention to the music, delivered with greater sense of urgency and committment, and the Abbey grooved with heavenly gyrations. King is a natural, gifted performer, who has the moves and the look of a front man, acted like he knew it, and played it up to the max, especially when he pulled back from the sometimes overbearing irony of the first set. The difference between him and the rest of us is--he can do those goofy rock star moves, and totally get away with it. Yes, Bocephus--you are an authentic rock and roll avatar--and we love you for it. - The Island World


"King of the Rednecks"

I stumble out of bed at the crack of noon, throat dry, head throbbing, and ears ringing from another late night at a loud club. I’m not exactly eager to greet the sweltering July daytime. The only reason I’m out of bed at all is because I was supposed to interview Jamie Perry, aka Bocephus King, five minutes ago. Perry answers the phone after a single ring and I croak out an apology, fumbling with my coffeemaker and explaining the reasons for my pathetic condition. “Me too,” responds Perry to my list of grievances. “I can relate, it’s no problem.”

Judging by the timbre of his voice, Perry, too, has recently woken up and is not yet fully functional. Not only am I relieved to hear this, it actually makes sense. After all, it’s exactly this kind of life – one full of drunken reprobates, smoky bars, and remorseful mornings after – that Perry documents in his songs, and the best way to tell a story is to live it. That’s something he’s been doing, one way or another, since he was a kid growing up in Point Roberts, Washington – so close to Tsawwassen, BC, that Perry pretty much considers them one and the same. He first encountered the characters who would later come to inhabit Bocephus King’s simmering stew of jazzy blues, swing, and country (and the kitchen sink) while his mom worked in a beachside bar.

“I grew up with a lot of those people for real.” Confirms Perry. He didn’t merely observe this world. Either. He dove headlong into it, landing a full-time lounge gig in Tsawwassen at the tender age of 16, through some other guys who were fired shortly thereafter. No one seemed to blink at how young Perry was, so he hired his brother and another buddy. Soon the makeshift band was playing five nights a week. It was here that the musician who would later become Bocephus King truly evolved.
It quickly became apparent that Perry’s trio needed to learn a boatload of tunes to satisfy a crowd yelling out for Neil Young one minute and demanding a blues staple like “Goodnight Irene” the next. “They’d get really sore if we couldn’t play it,” says Perry. “We ended up learning this really big list of songs just out of survival.”
That explains how Perry would eventually approach roots-based music from several angles at once. Accurately portraying the hazy lives of good people gone wrong – mostly nocturnal ones at that – was another thing altogether. “We would take mushrooms because we were playing five nights a week and we started getting pretty bored, “ recalls Perry. “ It was so surreal, because you’d have these coked-out drunks from next door, these cougars, and kids all in a lounge with a fireplace.”
After a night of musical weirdness, Perry and Co. would haunt the Denny’s in nearby Richmond until 6 a.m., go home, sleep and hit the lounge to do it all over again.

Fast-forward several years to the South By Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. An older, wiser Perry has moved on to seek out his fortune in Nashville, but not before his songs are dismissed as “Bocephus music” (Bocephus being a southern term for ‘old redneck’). Perry embraced the term, presenting himself to the world as Bocephus King. His low budget indie debut, Joco Music, won him a little acclaim, and his second, 1998’s A Small Good Thing, generated a slightly bigger buzz. Things were progressing for Perry, but he wasn’t exactly satisfied.

At this point, Perry became extremely disenchanted with New West Records, the Austin-based label that had been touting him as “alt. Country “ sure, argues Perry, there’s a smattering of that within A Small Good Thing, but not enough to ghettoize him within that one genre. “It got great reviews,” says Perry, “(but) it got stuffed into places it didn’t belong. People are going, ‘this isn’t fucking country!” The situation was exacerbated in Canada, where the CD “spent most of its life in warehouses.”
The light at the end of the tunnel appeared at SXSW in the form of an editor from Buscadero, a popular Italian music magazine. Unbeknownst to Perry, the editor was bowled, and he then returned to Italy with a mission: to inform Europe of the genius of Bocephus King. Perry didn’t know what was brewing when he was later interviewed for Buscadero, nor when a European promoter called and booked a tour for him. After apprehensively walking onto a stage in Italy and finding that the crowd knew the words to all his songs, it dawned on him: Bocephus King had quietly become huge in Europe. “We did one big outdoor concert where I thought we were part of a huge festival.” Says Perry, “and it was just us.”

Now based in Vancouver, and newly extricated from his New West deal, Perry is busy collecting praise for his third album, last year’s The Blue Sickness, which was originally intended as nothing more than a demo. While a new album is in the works, Perry is currently touring with his new band the Dirty Little Bastards (containing Calgary guitarist Paul Rigby, best known for his stellar playing in the Grift) - Calgary Straight


"Leaving Palookaville"

The way Jamie Perry sees things, the city that gave birth to his alter ego might be the strangest place on earth. To the rest of the world, Nashville, Tennessee, is the country capital of the universe, a dream factory where a Garth or a Shania can arrive dirt-poor and end up living larger than Elvis during the Graceland years. To Perry--better known to his fans as Bocephus King--it turned out to be something considerably darker.

He moved to Music City in 1989 at the age of 19, landing a job in a Nashville songwriting factory. In the interest of self-preservation, the Vancouver roots-rock alchemist eventually ended up fleeing in the middle of the night. But before he got on the Greyhound, there were months and months of watching a dream slowly go sour.

"I wanted to stack myself up against the pros, and Nashville seemed like the place to do that," the lanky, dishevelled singer-songwriter says, sipping espresso at a Commercial Drive coffee bar. "It had the same sort of appeal as Hollywood does for other stupid young kids. It turned into a horrible idea, and, like most bad ideas, it took a while to realize that. I eventually figured out that I didn't have a clue what I was doing."

He didn't exactly arrive at that revelation by himself. Apart from what he'd learned by watching Robert Altman's Nashville, Perry knew nothing about the city's music business. He made the move convinced he'd come up with a couple of Johnny Cash-calibre songs and the royalty cheques would start rolling in. What didn't occur to him was that Nashville stopped caring about the Man in Black, and all he stood for, sometime in the early '70s.

"The other songwriters would talk about 'Bocephus music'--it's like a derogatory term for old-time country songs about drinking," Perry says with a laugh. "Because I was trying to be Johnny Cash, I became a joke to them. They'd come in and go, 'What have you got for us today, Bocephus?' I honestly think they just kept me around for fun. I never really fit in, not in an outlaw way, but more like in an idiot kind of way. I was like a kid who got run over by a Nashville truck."

If there was an upside to all the abuse, it was that the party never stopped.

"It took me six months to get off of everything that I got hooked on down there," he says. "There was a lot of coke and a lot of dealers where I grew up in Tsawwassen and Point Roberts, but I'd never seen anything like the social aspect of the drug use that I saw in Nashville. You had these successful songwriter guys walking around in giant rabbit-skin coats. If someone thought you were even partially cool, they would whip out whatever they had."

Jamie Perry is in a better place today. A decade-and-a-half after the surreal, chemically enhanced nightmare that was Nashville, he's become a heavyweight on Vancouver's fertile alt-country scene. During that time he's released three albums--Joco Music, Small Good Thing, and The Blue Sickness--under the name Bocephus King. Those discs, mixing rough-hewn roots rock with cabaret blues and gutter-view country, placed Perry at the same lonely, losers end of the bar as Tom Waits, Alejandro Escovedo, and Townes Van Zandt.

Already a guaranteed draw on the local club circuit, Perry could easily have given his fans more of what they've come to expect with his latest, the just-released All Children Believe in Heaven. Instead, he decided to challenge himself and those who've followed him. Four albums into his career, Perry has created his first masterwork. If Nashville hated him back when he was aiming no higher than pleasing the shit-kicking fans of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, imagine what it would have to say about an album that incorporates everything from desert-baked Americana to dark-side-of-the-moon prog rock to stirred-not-shaken lounge pop. All Children Believe in Heaven is a stunner that sounds like nothing Perry has done before. Because the album marks such a radical change in direction, there are going to be Bocephus King disciples that don't get it. The singer is okay with that. It's not like he hasn't had his work criticized in the past.

PERRY HAD A simple goal with All Children Believe in Heaven.

"This time, I wanted to make sure that the only person I sound like is Bocephus King."

The album begins with a genre-busting epic titled "St. Hallelujah". Featuring heaven's-gate synth blips, ghost-town guitars, and beamed-in-from-the-'30s backing vocals, the track kicks off with Perry announcing "Heaven, just a death away." That lyric is a sign of things to come: death, both spiritual and physical, comes up a lot on All Children. Sonic experimentation aside, what makes the track an immediate standout is that it clocks in at more than 10 minutes.

"I figured if I was going to take a beating with this record, then I might as well take a really good beating," Perry says. "When you start an album with a 10-and-a-half-minute song, people can't sit on the fence when they're doing a - The Georgia Straight Cover Story


Discography

Joco Music
Small Good Thing
The Blue Sickness
All Children Believe in Heaven
Willie Dixon God Damn!

Wreck of the Century (single)
Jesus The Bookie featuring The Be Good Tanyas & Steve Dawson (single)

Photos

Bio

In Bocephus King, the enigmatic Vancouver native who's melodiously skirted so effortlessly between blues, alt country, traditional songwriting and modern aesthetics, we find now the voice of a songwriter and musician on a new path, ever-creating his own distinct sound. The results are nothing less than glorious on his new album WILLIE DIXON GOD DAMN.

Starting where he left off with traces of the genre smashing joy and adventure in his previous critically acclaimed ALL CHILDREN BELIEVE IN HEAVEN, King has sabotaged the typecasting. There's less the gravel-raw hobo-rock alternating with jazz-noir torch songs present in his earlier music. There's an urgency here, as if the album is a signpost at the end of the world. Kings own voice never being more present and contemporary. He avoids the easy answers and therein lies some of the majesty of the tone of Bocephus Kings latest work. The new album continues to present King as a cultural omnivore who eats with his mouth wide open. But the musical influences may as well be spoken of with the same weight as how literature and cinema are just as significant ingredients. His eclectic mlange integrates a soulful street carnival blues, moments that possess the glissando of a Michel Gondry dream sequence, the rustic appeal of a border town roots rock, and for the first time, hints of Eastern mysticism. Somewhere, George Harrison is smiling on the whole affair.

WILLIE DIXON GOD DAMN finds Bocephus King at his poetic best, his words the stuff of hardboiled fiction, the Beats, and the heart. Stick with them, and he takes you on an evocative trip down strange memory lane, pouring out his heart like a bottle. Not that King's left to deal with those ghosts and demons alone. He's surrounded himself with a cadre of capable studio hands, friends, neighbors and musicians from all points in between for his backing band on WILLIE DIXON GOD DAMN and under King's steering and production they venture to brave new places and invite you along for the incredible ride.

Band Members