Rain Perry wades into the fraught topic of the day on her upcoming release A White Album, due out April 15th, in which she asks, with clarity, empathy and a little wry humor: what does it mean to be white? What can we learn if we face our demons head on? Can we get past the defensiveness and shame and build a more just and empathetic America?
A White Album is the Ojai, CA-based musician’s fifth collaboration with Mark Hallman, who serves as producer and player of most of the instruments, at the Congress House in Austin, TX. Featuring guest appearances by Ben Lee, Akina Adderley, BettySoo and Wilco’s Mikael Jorgensen, Rain takes a fresh look at her own family history through the lens of race in seven original songs and two covers.
Perry has collaborated with an impressive array of artists throughout her career including Perla Batalla, Julie Christensen, Matt the Electrician, Eliza Gilkyson, Jon Dee Graham, Danny B. Harvey, Sara Hickman, Chuck Prophet and Victoria Williams.
Today Glide is premiering “The Money,” one of the standout tracks on the new album. With some serious Suzanne Vega vibes, Perry gives us a direct vocal delivery accompanied by a cool beat and synths. Lyrically, the song finds Perry turning her lens on the racist practice of redlining, offering a simple yet critical analysis. This contrasts with the songs infectious pop sound, making for a compelling listen.
Perry shares the story behind how the song came about:
Two things inspired “The Money.” A teacher friend in Oakland explained to me about redlining, which was a policy of enforced segregation of neighborhoods by the Federal Housing Administration in the post WWII era. I had no idea. I thought that only happened in the Jim Crow South. I knew about restrictive covenants – the paragraph in the deeds of many homes that says, “only white people can ever buy this house, forever.” Those were outlawed years ago. But until she laid it out to me, I didn’t understand how redlining shut non-white families out of wealth for generations, in a way that’s very difficult to ever overcome.
So when I was working on this album, I found myself attempting to write a song on the topic and weirdly ended up with a snappy little ditty with three vocal parts (that I now see was definitely inspired by “Silly Love Songs”).
Also, I’m a huge fan of Finding Your Roots on PBS. Few white people in America can go very far up their family trees without encountering something grim in our national history, whether it’s that our direct ancestors enslaved people, or settled land that was cleared by genocide, or simply benefitted financially from a racial hierarchy.
It’s hard to look at this stuff, but I am an optimist. I believe we white people are capable of taking a clear-eyed look at our country’s fraught past and present, and I think we have to if we are ever to move forward as a nation. So A White Album is my attempt to give it a try.
Photo credit: Timothy Teague