Though he was a founding father of the 80s "unplugged" movement, Peter Case has avoided making self-consciously precious music by keeping his singer-songwriter instincts tethered to his rock 'n' roll past: in 1977 he opened for the Ramones as bassist for Bay Area punks the Nerves, and in the early 80s directed the Plimsouls' merger of power pop and blue-eyed soul. In 1986 he released his eponymous debut solo album, which defined the formula he's used ever since: brooding, occasionally arch, and always penetrating lyrical imagery laid over a fusion of urgent rock rhythms and Case's own pristine flat-picking. A new best-of album, Who's Gonna Go Your Crooked Mile? (Vanguard), compiles songs from his past decade of recordings and adds three new politically themed tracks, but his most recent full-length studio album, 2002's Beeline, is his most successful, starkly drawn work. "Evening Raga," a harrowing portrait of a broken-down dreamer searching for his muse, is spurred by a throbbing drum-and-bass rhythm track over which Case weaves minor-key filigrees; the sneering "Manana Champeen" melds socially aware folk with the snottiness of his old punk days. He's at his best, however, when he turns those venerable tropes back on themselves. He slyly skewers the sweetness-and-light singer-songwriter persona on "Gone," while "It's Cold Inside," seasoned by a hollow-toned blues harmonica, is a latter-day answer to Robert Johnson's "Come On in My Kitchen": where Johnson offered erotic sanctuary, Case begs for a lover to release him from psychic imprisonment. Kelly Hogan & Scott Ligon open. Saturday 11/6, 9 PM, SideBar, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn, 708-788-2118 or 312-559-1212, $10.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Greg Allen.