Peter Case is originally from Buffalo, NY, but currently resides in one of the foggier corners of San Francisco, where he moved in the early ‘70s to pursue a solo acoustic career. He began by busking, went on to found the power-pop trio, the Nerves, with Paul Collins, and later led the southern Californian rock band the Plimsouls. But he never abandoned his love for acoustic music, and was always inspired by the likes of Bob Dylan, Sleepy John Estes and Bert Jansch. His debut solo album, Peter Case, produced by T-Bone Burnett and Mitchell Froom, earned him his first Grammy nomination, and has just been re-released by Omnivore Records on vinyl.
On Wednesday, October 12th, Case performed a live acoustic set of about 18 tunes at Hill Country Barbecue in Brooklyn, NY. There were only about twelve people in attendance, myself included, but that didn’t stop him from putting on a fantastic show.
After a brief introduction, “I’m Peter Case, apparently,” he launched into a repertoire that lasted about an hour and a half. Case covered classics old and new, and some covers, but mostly originals. Highlights included Bob Dylan’s “Long Time Gone,” to which he brings gritty, angst fueled vocals, followed by the melodic and lyrical “Waiting On A Plane” from Highway 62, his last rock album. “Water From A Stone” speaks of the hardships that Latin American immigrants face in the USA, including a six year old girl standing before a judge, facing deportation. He described “Mañana Champin” as a mix of “Spanish and Popeye”; the tune seems to speak of beautiful losers. Next came “Gone,” introduced as a Bay area ragtime: “the kind I used to hear everywhere when I first moved to the area.”
Case alternated between his Martin six-string and a Taylor 12-string with occasional tuning difficulties, which he handled with grace and humor. “This should only take 25 minutes”– but the wait was well worth it. “Bumblebee” showed his love of blues, the 12 string putting out a Leadbelly ring. The opening tuning of “Ain’t Gonna Worry No More” gives this spectacular tune a warm resonance, and the lyrics are pure poetry:
“Barefeet poppin’ on a pinewood floor
A tumblerush of desert flowers side the door
Her music box is pretty with the piebald stripes
Dust mote diamonds in a shaft of light
C’mon down, ain’t gonna worry no more”
Case packs every line with weighted significance, and themes range from personal to topical, often with a Dylanesque flow. He is a master song crafter whose style encapsulates the totality of American music: folk, blues, Irish ballads, pop, rock and more. Out of this mix, Case has forged a singular style and an original voice. That his show was not better attended in Brooklyn is a crime.
As my friend and local singer/songwriter John Pinamonti put it, “Peter Case is a national treasure.” He’s not wrong. See Case live next time he’s in town.
Read Michael’s interview with Peter Case HERE.