Peter Case

Reviews

An excellently considered and written review from All That’s Jazz.

Peter Case: On The Way Downtown:

Recorded Live On FolkScene

Doug ColletteBy DOUG COLLETTE
Peter Case: On The Way Downtown: Recorded Live On FolkScene

Peter Case’s On the Way Downtownreminds how prolific the once and future frontman of the Plimsouls has been during the course of his solo career. Recorded Live On FolkScene captures Case just as he was gaining traction during that phase of his career and offers keen insight into both his writing and performing.

What’s most noticeable right away is the ease with which the man sings. Always fluent with his vocal delivery and perhaps never more so than on stage, it’s nevertheless remarkable how effortless he sounds throughout “Spell of Wheels,” just to name one of the eighteen tracks. And while the lack of affectation is notable (and laudable) on its own terms, it’s also important as the foundation for the sound of his music, especially in the stripped-down format of this two part snapshot.

Tracks one through nine come from a session on the folk radio program on March 1, 1998 where Peter Case is accompanied by a quintet whose sparse playing is as meticulous as the craft of the frontman’s songwriting. And like all great bands, self-sufficient or in a supplemental role like this, the five men sound bigger than their number on a selection such as “Let Me Fall.”

And while Sandy Chila on drums and Don Heffington (Lone Justice, among others) on percussion may be largely responsible for that impression, without the steady heartbeat of Tony Marsico’s bass, the pithy guitar of session stalwart Greg Leisz would not stand out in such great relief. For Case’s part, he’s one nouveau-folk/Americana artist who never seems to hearken to early Bob Dylan when he plays harmonica along with acoustic guitaras he does at the base of the latter-named number (proof positive of the timeless nature of Case’s originals).

This music even approaches lush proportions at certain points such as “Green Blanket (Part. 1).” Which only makes the even more minimal arrangements from two years later sound more striking in this skeletal form. And yet the rendition of Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Icewater” sounds as fully formed in its own way, with David Perales on violin and harmony vocals alongside Case on guitar, vocals and harmonica,.

Each half of On The Way Downtown derives from Peter’s touring in support of his studio releases of the time-Full Service, No Waiting (Vanguard, 1998) and Flying Saucer Blues(Vanguard, 2000)-production of which is hardly much more lavish than these live presentations. Yet the comparable validity of studio and stage takes on “Leaving Home,” for instance, recalls a fundamental premise of great songwriting: such stellar creation will accommodate all manner of well-tooled settings.

Recorded Live On FolkScene should rightfully move listeners to delve more deeply into Peter Case’s extensive discography (including the aforementioned rock and roll band as well as its precursor, the Nerves), Especially given there is no other ‘official’ Peter Case concert release extent, this carefully-curated and annotated title is a valuable complement to, and an essential entry within, that lengthy list. This package also reinforces the man’s work ethic (as if that it’s really necessary), not to mention his long-term awareness of how precious is time well spent, as depicted in “Still Playin.'” No wonder the he’s pictured on this CD cover in such a reverent pose with his hat over his heart.


Track Listing: Spell of Wheels; On the Way Downtown; Let Me Fall; Green Blanket (Part 1); Honeychild; Crooked Mile; Still Playin’; See Through Eyes; Until the Next Time; Something Happens; Pay Day; Blue Distance; Walking Home Lte; Icewater; Beyond the Blues; Coulda Shoulda Woulda; Paradise etc.; Leaving Home.

Personnel: Peter Case: vocals, guitar, harmonica; Greg Leisz:guitar; David Perales: violin, harmony vocals; Andrew Williams: guitar, harmony vocals; Tony Marisco: bass; Sandy Chila: drums; Don Heffington: percussion.

Title: On The Way Downtown: Recorded Live On FolkScene | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Omnivore Recordings


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Counterpunch Review by Peter Stone Brown of my new album, and Tom Heyman’s new one as well.

On the Way Downtown to Show Business,

Baby

Peter Case and Tom Heyman, are both musicians and singer-songwriters who’ve been writing and playing music for decades, who happen to coincidentally currently reside in San Francisco. Both make music that is aware of tradition and musical history, and both have been through the ringer of the music business and keep on doing it anyway.

Peter Case’s new album On The Way Downtown (Omnivore Recordings) consists of two live-in-the-studio sets recorded on the radio show, “FolkScene,” broadcast on KPFK in Los Angeles. The first nine tracks recorded in 1998, find Case backed by a small band featuring ace guitarist, Greg Leisz; Andrew Williams, guitar, harmonium, vocals, Tony Marsico, bass; Don Heffington, percussion; and Sandy Chila, drums. They are the perfect backing group for Case, with Leisz’ superb slide work happening at exactly the right moment, creating exactly the right mood. On the remaining nine tunes recorded in 2,000, Case is accompanied by David Perales on violin and vocals who is equally sympathetic.

One of the best examples of what this group is capable of happens on “Honey Child,” which continually builds and the musicians let the song take them to a different place than when it started, and you start hearing echoes of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” “I’ll Fly Away” and “Lay My Burden Down.” This is followed by “Crooked Mile,” kicked off by Case’s excellent reminiscent of Blind Willie McTell fingerpicking, while Leizs’ slide takes the songs to the outer edges.

While Case is clearly influenced by Dylan, the influence never comes off as imitation. Instead he picked up on some of the best lessons Dylan’s songwriting has offered, how to write so it’s timeless, and how to integrate older songs and styles into a new song, so on one hand it sounds new, and on the other sounds like something you’ve known all your life. The other thing that makes Case’s songs stand out is he doesn’t write like a lyricist looking for the clever hook line, he writes like a writer who knows how to make words shine and feelings resonate, so when he describes his town, or an incident at night, or being on the street, you know exactly what he’s talking about. “On The Way Downtown” and “Blue Distance” are fine examples of this.

There are two covers, Mississippi John Hurt’s “Pay Day” and Charlie Poole’s “Leaving Home.” There’s a tendency among some guitar players when covering a Hurt song, they work so hard on trying to duplicate his guitar parts perfectly that the song loses all life, coming across as a museum piece. Case sings both songs with spirit intact.

So while this album isn’t a brand new groundbreaking collection of new songs, it is an album of real music performed live, where spontaneity reigns and one that you notice more with each listen.

Tom Heyman’s last album, The Cool Blue Feeling was an album of moody midnight to morning reflections that branched into a variety of styles. His new album, his fourth, Show Business Baby (Bohemian Neglect) is straight ahead rock and roll with an emphasis on the roll. There are 11 tightly written original songs built around cool guitar riffs that sound familiar though you can’t exactly place them, and two covers, Dion’s “Daddy Rollin’ (In Your Arms)” and Sonny Curtis’ “Baby My Heart.”

Working with pretty much the same group of musicians throughout, with a couple of exceptions, Heyman, who also produced the album keeps a unified sound and feel throughout. Heyman is a fantastic guitarist and plays lead that you notice, though sometimes he lets other players handle that chore.

Overall, the album is a bit lighter in tone, though more often than not, Heyman is bitingly and deliciously sarcastic, especially on the title track, which is about working in a bar, “Whiskey Wolf” with a blistering lead by Eric Ambel and “Handshake Deal.”

However behind the upbeat tone of the album, many of the songs, despite humorous titles like “Etch a Sketch” are about relationships that aren’t necessarily working. Heyman is really great at capturing the onslaught of thoughts that speed through your mind when you’re sitting alone in the dark with a drink and a cigarette. That he turned them into rocking, danceable songs that rarely run longer than three minutes is no small achievement.

Article printed from www.counterpunch.org: https://www.counterpunch.org

URL to article: https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/11/01/on-the-way-downtown-to-show-business-baby/

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