Rock My Soul
Full service: Neo-folkie Peter Case is giving a free concert.
Peter Case--new solo CD, new life
By Alan Sculley
WITH HIS LATEST CD, Full Service, No Waiting, singer and songwriter Peter Case feels he can't be accused of living in the past. That's something he wouldn't say about much of the music on his previous five solo CDs. But then who could blame Case for drawing on his past? Few musicians have felt the highs and lows that Case has experienced over the course of his 25-year love affair with music.
His single-minded pursuit of music has led Case to the depths of poverty, to the brink of stardom (his early 1980s power-pop band the Plimsouls scored a minor hit with the song "A Million Miles Away"), through a brief marriage to eccentric singer/songwriter Victoria Williams, and in recent years to a place where he has gained a strong measure of contentment. These days, he's focused on his acoustic folk-and-pop-tinged music, his life as a husband and father of three children, and his faith as a Christian.
"I basically hit the road when I was 15," says Case, a native of Buffalo, N.Y. "And I loved to play music and to travel around and live this whole life. It ended up getting me in a lot of different kinds of trouble. I followed the magic of it, but it ended up leaving me on the street, sort of an acid casualty that was like walking around in the rain playing guitar.
"But I got to experience the golden glow coming out of people's windows from the point of view of being on the street without a dime in my pocket, kind of befuddled, not really knowing how to get it together at all. There was nobody there to help me with it, and there are a lot of people who are in that situation now, because this is a society that's been built for the winners. It discards the losers. It discards the people who are slower or don't fit in. The square pegs in the round holes tend to be discarded without any sort of safety net. And I experienced that firsthand. Basically, the music led me on through that. And that in a way was an extremely painful and dangerous situation to be in.
"Now it informs me; it fills my music because I can feel that. You have to be able to feel things to be able to say it."
The twisted journey Case has taken is capsulized on one of his new songs, "Crooked Mile," a song that touches on his early stops in New York and California and the salvation he eventually found in Christianity. Another autobiographical song, "Still Playing," captures much of the fascination and joy that comes from the simple act of playing music. And Case's past also informs a few other songs on Full Service, No Waiting, particularly the touching tale of life on the street in "Green Blanket (Part 1)" and the look back to the innocence of youth on "See through Eyes."
BUT TO TALK to Case in 1998, it's clear that he's focused on the here and now. He's completely happy with his new CD. While Case's five previous solo albums have all had their moments--1995's Torn Again and 1989's The Man with The Blue Post-Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditionalist Guitar are particularly strong--Full Service, No Waiting is filled with some of the most affecting songs of Case's solo career.
The new CD often deals with the economic and personal struggles of everyday Americans, but there's also a sense of contentment that rings through many of the songs.
Musically, Case has rarely sounded as comfortable in the spare, acoustic setting.
"This CD has a lot of what I love in it," Case says. "I've been wanting to use these different instruments and make a much looser record. I feel like I've finally taken all these different things I love, and some of them are ancient, or old forms of music, and I've made something new out of it, something that felt fresh.
"It's like a really wonderful thing to be able to feel."
Although Case is now pursuing his solo career full-time, he did take time out a couple of years ago to revisit the Plimsouls experience, re-forming the band, doing some touring, and recording a CD called Trash.
Much to his frustration, though, Case was unable to find an American record deal for the band, and Trash remains available as an import only. "I didn't really get a deal for it here. I knocked on a lot of doors, and none of them opened up really," says Case, who describes Trash as a cool, rocking record.
Case, though, isn't shedding any tears over not being able to relaunch the Plimsouls. "One way the Plimsouls weren't as satisfying to me is that the Plimsouls are like telegrams of songs.
"My new songs are like movies."
KRSH 98.7FM and the Sonoma County Independent present Peter Case at the KRSH backyard concert series on Thursday, Sept. 17, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., 3565 Standish Ave., Santa Rosa. Admission is free. For details, call 588-0707.
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From the September 10-16, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.
© Metro Publishing Inc.