November-December 2007

case_asfarasyoucanget150px.jpg AUTHOR: PETER CASE

TITLE: AS FAR AS YOU CAN GET WITHOUT A PASSPORT

Publisher: FOR NOW

Edition: NOVEMBER 2006

acaseforcasepetercas150px.jpg

ARTIST: VARIOUS ARTISTS

TITLE: A CASE FOR CASE: A TRIBUTE TO THE SONGS OF PETER CASE

Label:HUNGRY FOR MUSIC HFM 024


Release Date: FEBRUARY 2006

petercase_letusnowpraise150px.jpgARTIST: PETER CASE

TITLE: LET US NOW PRAISE

SLEEPY JOHN

Label: EP ROCK RECORDSYEP 2160

Release Date: AUGUST 2007 

   By Dennis Roger Reed

Sometimes we ignore our own backyard, musically speaking. We don’t truly respect the talent we have in our own community or we can’t grasp them as STARS. Peter Case is a case in point. (Not only a bad pun but also the kind of hackneyed redundancy that has made the print media what we are today.) Case has spent most of his career based in Southern California, and has long garnered the respect (and awe) of his fellow musicians. His work has been regaled by the critics, but for the most part “mainstream success” has eluded him. Case is a remarkably prolific artist, his work gifted with a rich, storytelling aspect that make comparisons with prose writers such as Raymond Carter or Cornell Woolrich every bit as appropriate as comparisons with great storytelling songwriters like Guy Clark or Sleepy John Estes.

case_asfarasyoucanget250px.jpg Starting as a street busker, then a punk rocker in the Nerves, he reached pop prominence with The Plimsouls. After parting with pop, he has evolved into perhaps the finest roots singer songwriter in the world known as the Los Angeles music business. One of the problems with prolific artists is that it’s hard to keep up with them. In last year, we’ve got an autobiographical sketch, a multi-disk tribute recording and Peter’s newest solo record. Let’s dig in.

 Case’s fans know a bit about his past, through songs like Entella Hotel, or from reading Case’s road log from one of his websites. Case lived and worked on the streets of San Francisco, plying and refining his trade. As Far As You Can Get Without A Passport proves Case to be a much more than capable writer of prose. The book seems almost free of artifice. Case isn’t out to sell himself as the ultimate hipster, nor as a victim. He’s relaying a series of interesting stories that happened to him and around him. Friendships are started over a shared bottle of wine. Pocket change in a guitar case determines how one will be dining that evening. And through it all, Case is refining his art, adding to it, soaking up the world around him. This is a short read, only 51 pages, with more to come. We hope.

A Case for Case is a 3 CD tribute record that works. Most tribute recordings hope to send you back to the artist’s original recordings. A Case for Case may provide a similar result, but primarily it pulls the listener, song by song, into the realization of the tremendous body of excellent songs this talented writer has crafted. One can certainly appreciate the talent assembled. Maura O’Connell, Tom Russell, Jackie Greene, Chris Smither, Dave Alvin, Victoria Williams, Joe Ely, Todd Snider and many more hip performers put their brand on Caseacaseforcasepetercas250px.jpg’s repertoire. The performances sometimes are reminiscent of Case’s own arrangements, or sometimes add a new color to the palette. Chris Gaffney takes Zero Hour in a much rootsier vein than the Plimsouls’ original. The Kennedys add a jangly folk rock flavor to their version of Great Big World. The songs stand on their own, the players are fine and it’s a cool project that hits you in more than one way.

petercase_letusnowpraise250px.jpgLet Us Now Praise Sleepy John is not a Sleepy John Estes tribute record, though one might say that Peter Case’s lyrical slant often takes on a storytelling mode not too distant from Estes’. Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John finds Case in an acoustic mood, either solo or in small ensemble. Richard Thompson comes to call on Every 24 Hours, with his elastic acoustic guitar style a nice fit. Thompson also adds nice harmony vocals to this tune, including a short trip to an affecting falsetto. Carlos Guitarlos sings with Case on Underneath the Stars, a number about a life on the streets, not only a place Case used to inhabit, but where Guitarlos did up until just a few years ago. Million Dollar Bail comments on what passes as justice here in the US.

This project is a more acoustic based, stripped down sound that some of Case’s work, and the nature of the material benefits from the closer, more intimate touches. It’s tough to believe that Case has been making music for nearly 30 years, but these three recent projects reflect his value to music. And the next time you see him strolling down Pico, think for a second about the breadth of his remarkable career. He’s a STAR.


Dennis Roger Reed is a singer-songwriter, musician and writer based in San Clemente, CA. He’s released two solo CDs, and appeared on two CDs with the newgrassy Andy Rau Band and two CDs with the roots rockers Blue Mama. His prose has appeared in a variety of publications such as the OC Weekly and MOJO magazine. Writing about his music has appeared in an eclectic group of publications such as Bass Player, Acoustic Musician, Dirty Linen, Blue Suede News and Sing Out! His oddest folk resume entry would be the period of several months in 2002 when he danced onstage as part of both Little Richard’s and Paul Simon’s revues. He was actually asked to do the former and condoned by the latter. He apparently knows no shame.