LIVE: Peter Case @ the Low Beat, 9/12/14
Review by Fred Rudofsky
Photographs by Al Goldberg
In a 100-minute performance, Case would have weened you from a pathetic addiction to an iPhone and/or reality television, cured your blues, and whet your thirst for the many robust beverages the intimate Low Beat offers that put your squeaky clean fridge-full of light beers to shame. You, however, chose a night in. (And it wasn’t even a school night, which is, by the way, the ultimate cliched cop-out for not going out to support live music). You should have sprinted over to this one, because, as Case put it so well in his opening song, “Who’s gonna walk your crooked mile?”
A Buffalo native based on the West Coast, Case brought an impressive array of songs to Albany. He thumb-picked blues like a Delta master while declaiming with Kerouac joy, “You can smell the earth and sky again/ On the way downtown.” In “Put Down the Gun,” Case offered an extended border town cowboy guitar solo to open the chilling tale.
Michael Eck got the call to play mandolin on several songs, and the chemistry between the two musicians was riveting. Bob Dylan’s “Pledging My Time” sounded like a Sleep John Estes and Yank Rachell revival, while Case’s meditative “Estella Hotel” found beauty in the decadence of bars where “the afternoon goes on forever.” Deservedly, Eck garnered major applause for a deft solo during the quirky rhythms of Blind Willie McTell’s “Broke Down Engine.”
Throughout the set, Case’s gritty vocals were as compelling as his twelve-string work, especially throughout “The Long Good Time,” a very existential, haunting performance.
Case spoke of music as if it were a life-sustaining force (and it is). “I’ve loved this song since I was nine years old!” he hollered before making Bob Dylan’s “Long Time Gone” his own. Likewise, he resurrected Buddy Holly, imagining the rock ‘n’ roll pioneer shivering on a payphone in a snowstorm in “Mesa, Arizona.” The funky twelve-string blues of “Bumble Bee” would have had the late Robert Jr. Lockwood smiling.
Two prime covers during a welcome encore brought the evening to a high energy close. Case and Eck played the heck out of Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Matchbox Blues” (the classic song that inspired variants by Carl Perkins, the Beatles, Albert King, and others) and got real gone on Roy Orbison’s rockabilly gem, “Down the Line.”
The next time Peter Case is in town, drop what you’re doing and do the right thing: go hear one of the great songwriters and live performers of our time.
PETER CASE SET LIST
Who’s Gonna Walk Your Crooked Mile?
On the Way Downtown
Put Down the Gun
Pledging My Time (Bob Dylan)
So Glad You’re Mine (Arthur Crudup)
Cold Trail Blues
The Long Good Time
Broke Down Engine (Blind Willie McTell)
Broke ‘n’ Hungry (Sleepy John Estes)
Walk in the Woods
Long Time Gone (Bob Dylan)
Matchbox Blues (Blind Lemon Jefferson)
Down the Line (Roy Orbison)