Peter Case, "HWY 62" (Omnivore)
Peter Case, former frontman for the 1980s alt-rock band The Plimsouls, is an extremely seasoned soul these days. His latest solo album, "HWY 62," is a solid release displaying his heartfelt songwriting and no frills approach to offering up his beautiful musical messages.
The album is a guitar-heavy collection of hard luck stories with Case at the helm, singing guttural tones in fine troubadour fashion.
"If I Go Crazy" would be just at home in the hands of a proper street corner busker (which Case has been), but in the hands and voice of Case, it evolves into a study of perseverance when faced with life's dice rolls.
The best stuff comes on "Pelican Bay," an ode to the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison in northern California, where the state's worst of the worst got to do their time. Case sings about the loneliness of solitary confinement and the sliver of light through a narrow window that serves as the sun. It all comes off like a modern day Johnny Cash who sees value in not ignoring the many lives that exist behind bars.
Even during his '80s alt-rock days, Case made his songs feel weighty and worrisome, as though there were some omnipresent force forever threatening any hopes of a life in harmony. But here, with Ben Harper handling lead guitar and Case singing beautifully throughout — as on "Bluebells" for instance — even dour times can resonate with the listener.
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