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Peter Case | Thank You, St. Jude (Prima)
Pity poor Peter Case, once proto-Power Popper with the Plimsouls then carving a distinctive solo career that was pure proto-Americana and yet doomed to forever languish in the bargain bins of the world, assigned the deadly moniker of also-ran. But if life teaches us anything, it's that those who get there first or perform best more often than not don't get their just dessert. Simple as that. The world isn't fair as Randy Newman so elegantly (and brutally) stated and it's a strange kind of truth to learn, for if we didn't have musicians, writers and artists who believed they could both make good music and good money (at the same time) then we wouldn't have the pleasures of Peter Case, or, for that matter, a whole host of other names whose reach may be limited but whose effect and affect are immeasurable, necessary as a pair of lungs and quite often the difference between a life worth living and one that's merely a listless waiting. But this tells you nothing at all about the record. Recorded in the studio with only the accompaniment of violinist David Perales, 'TYSJ' showcases Peter Case in raw, vital form performing songs from his back catalogue (often rescued from the shackles of their bad production) and, curiously, three songs all written in 1928. It starts off with a terrific, forceful version of Icewater from Case's very first album (of which, unfortunately, it's the only representative). The heart of this disc though is composed of six songs taken from his 1989 follow-up The Man With The Blue...' (made after his divorce from Victoria Williams) and it's a wise move for it's Case's best record and one that needed a fresh look. There're stunning versions of Entella Hotel and Poor Old Tom, a song that even after 12 years still manages to be harrowing and shocking. Case has a great, evocative voice that swoops and flies on Put Down The Gun and the hilarious Charlie Poole number, Leavin Home. The devastating Two Angels sums up the incomprehensibility of breaking up while Hidden Love is a chilling post mortem of an affair with its haunting refrain of "someone sees the dreams we hide". The old country blues numbers are given passionate and energetic readings but they can't compare to Case's own songs which hold you with their dark narratives and intuitive playing. It all ends with the charming 4th of July / Christmas Rag, a new song, that manages to be uplifting and morose at the same time. Most re-recordings of old work are the result of bankrupt minds and pockets but here is an exception to the rule, a useful redux that should stand along Case's other work with its head held high.
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002