Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Peter Case - Hwy 62, album review

Surprise End

I saw Peter Case just the once many years ago and that was a treat as he is one of the great singer-songwriters.

This latest release is also a treat, and reflects Case’s inimitable style of blues/roots inflected folk, lyrically astute and sung with his distinctive lightly drawled, light-husky vocal.

A song that perfectly encapsulates Case’s craft is second Waiting on a Plane: the acoustic guitar blues opening suggests a classic 12 bar, and it is in some respects, but the beautiful folk melody that is layered over this makes for a delightful combination, the delicate piano chords adding a calming texture. The lyrics tell a tale of loss and regret, a thief perhaps reflecting, as he waits, on the precarious balances his life produces.

The angry Case is reflected in opener Pelican Bay, a song railing against the colossal number of inmates held in American prisons, the lawlessness of its environs, the imbalance of black inmates to others, and further inherent injustices. This ‘theme’ is pursued from a different perspective in All Dressed Up [For Trial].

The other imbalance of the rich and poor is presented in Water from a Stone, a broad canvas on which to paint the injustices meted out to refugees who have escaped in search of a better life, tenants of greedy landlords, the more general history of haves and have nots, and the larger capitalist culture/context of it all – embraced by the metaphor of squeezing water from a stone.

In The Long Good Time, the opening could describe my memories of home and growing up,

Mother was doing her ironing while she listened to Nat King Cole
Teenagers came and went in cars all tuned to rock’n’roll
Windows were open in a summer heat
Locusts were singing out there on the street
The feeling passed now, I can’t recall, how we never thought we had it all
Every one, every place, everything has been erased
That’s the way it goes

and Case continues to rue loss as well as some fond reflection on home life, darkness in his song about the power’s cut and mother called down from the top of the stairs ‘boys play that nice song about suicide’. Not quite my scenario, thankfully. But my mother loved Cole, and I remember the locusts and their night-time songs in Elk Horn, Iowa.

Closer and title song is 1 minute and 5 seconds of honky tonk piano. Go figure. 

A journey that resonates - thank you Peter.

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