“Here’s a song I wrote before I ever wrote a song,” Peter Case explained as he picked up his acoustic guitar and ran through “Here He Comes, There He Goes,” a little ditty that he penned during his teenage years in Buffalo. Case was having a flashback moment, and he wasn’t afraid to share it with the intimate crowd at his mid-week Caffe Lena show.
Surprisingly enough for the veteran singer-songwriter, it was his Lena’s debut.
Case, whose musical legacy traces back to his days with such under-appreciated rock outfits as the Nerves and the Plimsouls, was obviously feeling a bit nostalgic. He took a few minutes out of his rompin’ acoustic blues set to read an excerpt from his memoir “As Far as You Can Get Without a Passport.” Ande sat down at the upright piano for a another of his early songwriting efforts, the John Lennon-esque “Just Hangin’ On,” which he had revisited on his ’07 album, “Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John.”
Case eventually got around to playing a Sleepy John Estes song, too, inviting opening act Michael Eck and his mandolin up to the stage for a couple of encores, including Estes’ “Broke and Hungry.”
But that was only the tip of the iceberg. Case was knee deep in the blues all night long, and it was something of a surprise that such an acclaimed songwriter spent so much of his time in the spotlight digging into the songbags of such past blues masters as Blind Willie McTell (the opening “Broke Down Engine”), Lead Belly (a powerhouse, string-slappin’ rendition of “30 Days in the Workhouse”), Bukka White, Jimmy Reed, Memphis Minnie and more.
Not that I was complaining. Not a bit. Case was in total command of the blues all night long, both vocally and instrumentally.
And when he showcased his own songwriting talents, he hit the bullseye, too, whether it was the intoxicating raga-like drone of “First Light” or the attention to fine details in the seamy-side-of-life narrative “Entella Hotel,” both of which were highlights of his nearly two-hour show.
In his maximum solo acoustic mode, Eck offered up a short, five-song opening set drawn from his latest album, “In My Shoes.” And in the ballsiest move of the night, one of those songs was Peter Case’s own “Beyond the Blues.”
Peter Case photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
Michael Eck photograph by Al Goldberg
Peter Case and Michael Eck photograph by Joe Deuel
Review and photos of Peter Case’s performance at Valentine’s Music Hall in November, 2010
Review of Peter Case’s CD, “Wig!”
Review and photos of Michael Eck’s performance at Caffe Lena in March, 2010
Review of Michael Eck’s CD, “In My Shoes”
PETER CASE SET LIST
Brokedown Engine (Blind Willie McTell)
Walk in the Woods
House Rent Party
The Words in Red
30 Days in the Workhouse (Lead Belly)
Reading from “As Far as You Can Get Without a Passport”
Bumble Bee (Memphis Minnie)
Put Down the Gun
Flying On the Ground Is Wrong (Buffalo Springfield)
Caress Me, Baby (Jimmy Reed)
Here He Comes, There He Goes
Just Hangin’ On
Black Crow Blues (Bob Dylan)
House Rent Jump
On the Wat Downtown
First Light/Fixin’ to Die (Bukka White)
ENCORES (with Michael Eck on mandolin)
Broke and Hungry (Sleepy John Estes)
So Glad You’re Mine (Big Boy Crudup)
MICHAEL ECK SET LIST
You’re a Mountain
Beyond the Blues (Peter Case)
Dead Man’s Shirt
In My Shoes