Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Peter Case

Last night I added song #7500 to the iPod. The winner is.....

Peter Case's version of "A Working Man Can't Get Nowhere Today" from Tulare Dust: A Songwriters' Tribute To Merle Haggard.

Before you all think I've gone off the deep end (I mean, Merle Haggard?), it is no small coincidence that Peter Case is the honoree here. Case is one of my favorite musicians.

Not many people know who Peter Case is, at least those familiar with mainstream music. Usually I get blank stares when mentioning him. It's not until I mention the 80's hit "A Million Miles Away" by a band called the Plimsouls, does a spark of distant recognition cross someone's face. Despite their one-hit-wonder-dom, lead singer Peter Case has continued to be active in the music scene. Rolling Stone's website categorizes him as "modern folk." He has released 10 studio albums since 1986, and appeared on over half a dozen compilation albums.

My senior year at Occidental, I was working as a staff writer for the Arts section of the college's newspaper when, at an assignment meeting, my editor handed me the LP of Case's second solo effort: The Man With The Blue Post Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditionalist Guitar. I gave it a rave review. I'd recommend you go out and buy it, but it's out of print, although you can get a used copy through Amazon.com. In fact, I just discovered that I do not have this on my iPod (horror of horrors!). This is shocking to me, as I consider this to be one of my favorite records of all time. There is hardly a weak track on the record, and it is one of the most bluesy, haunting, uplifting recordings I know of.

Case's later albums are strong as well, but none move me as much as this initial introduction to his music. Here's one fan review on Amazon:

"Case's second solo effort fulfills much of the promise hinted at on its predecessor. The songwriting is more fluent and self-assured, as is his singing; with contributions from David Lindley, Jim Keltner and Los Lobos' David Hidalgo, the musical settings are more varied and distinctive. Case delivers some startlingly precise character studies ("Poor Old Tom," "Travellin' Light"), stark emotional dramas ("Put Down the Gun," "Two Angels") and sharply observed sense-of-place vignettes ("This Town's a Riot," "Entella Hotel"). Perhaps most notable, though, is the born-again artist's new-found deftness at bridging spiritual and secular concerns, which he does effectively on "Hidden Love." - Ira Robbins/Harold DeMuir, Trouser Press"

I had the pleasure of seeing Case play with his band in the early '90s in Pasadena at the long-defunct Toe's Tavern, a surf-themed bar a block off of Colorado (behind the Academy Theater). As spectacular as it was to see him in such an intimate setting, and to be able to chat with him outside after his set, it was maddening that so many people there seemed to just be there for no other reason that to drink beer, and couldn't seem to care one way or another about Peter Case.

Anyway, I strongly recommend his music to anyone interested and am going to be adding his website to BillyBlog's list of interesting sites. Check him out, and hear samples of some later work, at his website here.

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