Artist: Peter Case
Album: Peter Case (30th Anniversary Reissue)
Release Date: 09/16/2016
Peter Case was a bona fide rock n’ roller with the Nerves and Plimsouls when he stepped out to make this solo record in 1986. As it turned out, this became one of the seminal albums of the Americana movement. It was also notable for this quote from producer T-Bone Burnett: “ If this record doesn’t sell a million copies, I quit the business.” That didn’t happen, but Burnett obviously never quit the business and the many of the record’s tunes are still staples in Case’s live shows and the album left a lasting impact on listeners. The dozen tunes are remastered here along with seven bonus tracks, three of which were previously unreleased.
The list of guest artists accompanying Case is astounding. Besides noted producers Burnett and Mitchell Froom, Mike Campbell, Roger McGuinn, John Hiatt, Victoria Williams, Jim Keltner and Van Dyke Parks all contribute. Case earned a Grammy nomination for the song “Old Blue Car” and topped the list of New York Times’ list of best albums of the year. The mostly acoustic songs are adeptly arranged and showcase Case’s gift for melody. Sometimes his lyrics are a bit esoteric but it’s hard to find fault with songs like the Van Dyke Parks-arranged “Small Town Spree” and the harmonica-driven “Old Blue Car.”
If you’ve been fortunate enough to catch Case live, you’re struck by his energy and animated approach. You sense a busy, thoughtful mind too. Here’s a brief glimpse of Case’s explanation of the beginnings of the record, “The stories started to happen, on Sunset Boulevard one long afternoon, at the counter of Ben Frank’s. I was killing time, drinking back coffee, chain-smoking Camels and doing a newspaper crossword puzzle when the lines came in on the ether: “Out past the cemetery down by the willow bend…” I wrote them in the margins of the page. The lyrics began pouring out faster than I could write. It took shape before I even had time to figure out what it was. I paid my check, left a tip at the counter, picked up the newspaper, still scribbling as the words hit, and made my way across the parking lot to my car, the across the own to my pad.”
If you missed this the first time, pick it up. My bet is that the tunes will still resonate as well as they did thirty years ago.
– Jim Hynes