Rain Perry's High Wire Walk
by Sasha Stone

Rain Perry's songs on her new CD "Balance" alternate between frustration and joy, happiness and disgust, brooding sexuality and fear.

Through her songs, Perry works out her complicated life of trying to be a mother, a wife, and an artist.

If Rain Perry was a character in a film, she'd probably be cast as Winona Ryder - the two share the same eyes and the same haircut. But Ryder seems to offer my life at its very best, while Perry's music has enough stuff to get me through the hardest days.

Perry wrote music and played piano and guitar most of her young life until she was stricken with Rheumatoid Arthritis and became unable to really move her fingers enough to play. Where that might make someone like me fall into a pit of despair, possibly even turning to something like smack or severe alcoholism to ease the bitterness, Perry worked it out, then went on to write beautiful songs.

I can't remember the last time an album brought me to tears. Perry's "Girl in the Doorway," a lullaby of sorts, is about the last time she saw her mother who died, leaving a seven year old Rain to be raised by her father. Remarkably, the song is written from the mother's point of view, making it all the more moving; what is harder than losing a child, even if it's you who's dying?

"My girl in the hospital doorway
saying good night to me.
I say I'll be here in the morning,
but you know I won't be."

Perry has endured the death of both parents - her father's only last year.

What makes the album so great, aside from the writing and Perry's clear, lovely voice, is its dramatic structure. It moves with ease from the brooding "Girl in the Doorway," the fourth cut on the album, to a cover of Randy Newman's "Let's Burn Down the Cornfield," building up and bringing down the listener, creating a sense of story.

"Yosemite," the third cut, is nothing short of a masterpiece. A clear, dead-on metaphor; an insightful declaration of Perry's own genius: suffering makes great art, not because of the present pain but because of how much more glorious life becomes in the wake of it:

"I've seen the brightest sparks
Glowing in the faces
Of my friends whose lives have been
The biggest mess
They don't make landmarks
Our of ordinary places,
Only landscapes that have seen
The most distress.

"Ten thousand tons of ice
Are crushing you
Into a beautiful one-of-a-kind boy
The thaw will come
And you will be

The farthest down Perry goes after "Girl in the Doorway" is a dark portrait of a child molester. Like the other songs on the album, "Idaho" is directed at someone. The "you" changes from song to song, making it clear that the writer is working out her relationships and roles to these varying forces in her life, hence the title "Balance."

"The Real Thing" closes the album, drawing a kind of resolution to it all, describing what must be Perry's workable philosophy of life. Finally, it's about what you can count on when all else fails: "Welcome to the real thing/where the girl's not always pretty/and the bed's not always made/and often you're both too busy/or too tired/but the passion that she shows you/it is because she knows you/what more could you desire?"

What more, indeed. "Balance" is exceptional debut album and Perry is the real thing.

Sasha Stone

CineScene 1999