Artist: Peter Case
Album: On the Way Downtown: Recorded Live on Folkscene
Release Date: 10.27.2017
Peter Case had just recently released his acclaimed Full Service, No Waiting when he performed on Los Angeles’ KPFK-FM syndicated radio program FolkScene with a full band in 1998. Omnivore Recordings is issuing this performance, together with a duo effort with violinist David Perales from Case’s 2000 Flying Saucer Blues, for a combined 18 tracks from the highly-praised syndicated program. Primarily acoustic, these sets have remained unheard until now.
Case reminisces in the liners, “It felt like such an honor to play Howard and Roz Larman’s FolkScene. All the great people were on it, a Who’s Who of folk music. I’d loved the program for years. I listened in every week. Roz spun the coolest records. Howard deftly handled the interviews, and a key member of the team was Peter Cutler, their sound engineer. He tuned in great sound for each session. Live six-piece band and an hour soundcheck? No problem for Cutler.”
Mixing the various instrumentation on the first nine tracks with full band would be a particularly challenging task for any engineer. There are often three guitars with string man extraordinaire, Greg Leisz, adding lap steel, pedal steel and dobro. Percussionist Don Heffington adds the bodran on “Spell of Wheels” and the very evident jaw harp to the title track. It’s difficult to pin down the various sounds that range between Mideastern and Celtic on the 1998 sessions. The band gets downright raucous on “Honey Child” and “Crooked Mile.”
The duo tracks feature not only Perales’ fiddle but his harmony vocals with Case’s mostly bluesy tunes. Included among them is the classic “Beyond the Blues,” which Case co-wrote with Tom Russell and Bobby Newirth. There are lyrical moments where one can’t help but take notice as in the line “The apocalypse is over and I still owe rent” in “Paradise Etc.” On these sessions, Case gives brief spoken introductions to the background behind the songs. The set closes with “Leaving Home,” another version of the Frankie and Johnny tale, which, Case says, “was a hit for Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers in 1928.”
If you’ve ever seen Case live in solo performance, he still delivers, with bustling energy and enthusiasm. Having other musical partners aboard in this live setting seems to push him an even higher level. I need to go back and hear the two albums that these live performances are drawn from. Few artists are as creative as Case.