Elvis Perkins

Elvis Perkins in Dearland

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"I don't let doomsday bother me; do you let it bother you?" asks Elvis Perkins, drawing a line between the downtrodden elegance of his 2007 debut and the rustic, sprightly Americana that energizes his second release. Perkins still writes about death, having lost both his parents to tragic circumstances, but he does so with a sort of homespun grace, turning the funeral dirges of yesteryear into cathartic celebrations. Supported by a proper band and a veritable heap of instruments -- including horns, pump organ, clarinet, and banjo -- Perkins tackles a number of rootsy styles here, from the brassy New Orleans bounce of "Doomsday" to the old-timey chamber pop of "Send My Regards to Lonelyville," whose climax involves a tangle of saxophones, tuba, strings, and brushed percussion. There are traces of past songwriters in this delightful jumble, from Bob Dylan to Leonard Cohen to Pete Seeger, but Perkins rarely lingers long enough to risk being pigeonholed, preferring instead to play the role of a wandering troubadour. He follows "Lonelyville" with "I'll Be Arriving," a rumbling, haunting nugget of organ chords and blues-rock guitar, before closing out the disc with "How's Forever Been Baby," whose barroom waltz is both beautiful and heartbreaking. This is still the same Perkins who turned misery into moving music several years ago, but he's learned to dress up those sentiments in engaging Americana attire, a move that softens the blow but rarely cheapens the art.

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