Elvis Perkins

Bowery Ballroom; Sat 1

Photograph: Amrit Singh

The slow, somber title track of singer-songwriter Elvis Perkins’s upcoming debut, Ash Wednesday, is also the album’s centerpiece. And it certainly symbolizes a turning point, but not the transition to Lent’s 40 days of self-denial. Perkins’s Ash Wednesday is September 12, 2001, the day after his mother, photographer Berry Berenson, was killed aboard American Airlines Flight 11. (His father, actor Anthony Perkins, died in 1992 of an AIDS-related illness.) It’s fitting, then, that the folky, somewhat languorous waltzes on the first half of the record—written before 9/11—are lighthearted compared with the ones closer to the end. Beyond track six, dirges take over, including one called “It’s a Sad World After All.”

Perkins has inherited at least some of his parents’ artistic finesse. (So has his brother, actor Oz Perkins, who played drums on Ash Wednesday.) But unlike many children of the famously talented, Elvis isn’t a late-generation letdown. He is a gifted singer and adept poet with a knack for emotional inflection. He knows when to ramble through wordy verses, and when to hang on to a syllable to emphasize his yearning. If his live set isn’t perfect, it’ll be heartrending for the way he dives into lines like “No one will survive Ash Wednesday alive / No soldier, no lover, no father, no mother, no lonely child.” — Cristina Black