Rough, and raw, this is a recording that, in places, has the feel of an extended family gathering. Everyone joining in on the chorus. Sometimes stretching toward the operatic in their abandon. Everybody shouting, clapping their hands. But for the main, the music is just solo voice and guitar, unadorned bel-canto and ventilador. Strumming with fingers. Drumming with palms. Recounting tales, passed down through generations, in song. These heel-stamping high spirits, heavy with history.
Tomas de Perrate is a descendant of one of the great gypsy dynasties, based in Utrera, in Andalusia, in the south west of Spain. He started learning guitar at the age of 6, at the foot of his father’s sick bed. His 2 younger brothers also play. Tres Golpes is Tomas` first album in 11 years. His performance, and the record, are steeped in tradition, a sound of cedar and cypress, but also bear the influence of artists, and tunes, that as a child and an adolescent, he would hear on the radio. On album of standards, he doesn’t so much tear up ancient forms – the Soleares of La Serena, La Cherna, and the Bulerias of Morón – as allow these outside inspirations to seep in. Something that he considers to be a natural evolution of flamenco. The closest thing that I have to it in my own collection, though, is still the work of El Chocolate.
Some of the pieces – chaconas, folias, jacaras, romances – which can be traced back to the 16th and 17th century, however, are presented as “avant” adaptations that have way more in common with Nick Cave, for example, than Seville`s fallen king, or, say, Enrique Morente, Paco de Lucia or Camaron. Sparse arrangements for piano, baritone, and big bass drum. A gothic rumbling. Accapellas accompanied only by dark drones. Deconstructed into grunts and growls. The alternating between strict adherence to heritage, tradition, and edgy experimentation, made me think of Lula Cortes` equally challenging, courageous, sometimes crazy, Brazilian campfire sessions. Sadly, I guess, due to the slave trade, both have a passion, and rhythms, that are at least partially African in origin.
Personally, it was reading Jah Wobble`s autobiography, Memoirs Of A Geezer, that plugged me into flamenco’s true power. Sure I`d been a raver, and during 1988`s second summer of love the Gipsy Kings` Bambaleo and Djobi Djoba – and the ecstasy – had me lost on the dance-floor, in cinematic visions of white stucco-walled villages framing blue, azure, skies – right “on one”, reliving the best holiday I never had – but when the legendary bass-player listed El Chocolate alongside Oum Kalthoum, and The Dubliners, as seminal influences, I understood that this was real, proper, roots music. I`ll be honest, though, and admit that even now, still a doomed romantic, a day-dreamer, the music paints pictures, of a perhaps cliched hard-bitten heroism in my head. The last hurrah of grizzled gunslingers off to meet their high noon.
Perrate`s Tres Golpes is out now, on Lovemonk.