By Kevin Madigan
Thrown together in only three days, Peter Case’s new album Wig! is a no frills, raucous party celebrating his return from near death. Recorded live onto analog tape with minimal overdubs, Case presents a rowdy, strident manifestation of his vitality. He’s lucky to be alive, and he knows it. Case has had a tumultuous year, having had emergency surgery to correct a 99-percent blocked artery, something that might have felled lesser mortals.
Case produced Wig! himself and plays guitars, piano and harmonica. Lots of harmonica. There are only three musicians in this band, but they cover a lot of territory and make a fearsome sound. D.J. Bonebrake (great name) is on drums and other percussion instruments. He used to be in the band X. Then there’s Ron Franklin from Gasoline Silver on lead guitar (including a subtle slide guitar here and there).
“I’ve always been into dynamic emotionally charged music you could use to tell a story or paint a picture,” he states on his website. The album’s title, he says, is “not just a way of life; it’s an explosive reaction against the tension of living in an insane century.” When he fell ill last year, the fiasco that is this country’s health care system left him with six-figure bill for his operation. Good thing he’s got friends in high places. Joe Henry, T Bone Burnett, Richard Thompson and others of that ilk banded together and organized benefit concerts to pay off pesky creditors.
Founding member of both The Nerves and The Plimsouls, he is known to many for the latter’s hit “A Million Miles Away,” although he likes to remind people that there’s much more to his career than that song and that band. “I’ve been solo for … years now, have played a couple thousand solo gigs, I’ve been Grammy nominated as a solo artist, had a solo record named album of the year in The New York Times, put out eight solo cds to the Plimsouls three, won over audiences all around the world in places where the Plimsouls have never [been] heard of,” he states emphatically on his blog.
Case wears his influences proudly. His favorite singers are an eclectic bunch – Muddy Waters, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Lucinda Williams, John Lennon and Sleepy John Estes, about whom he made a well-received tribute album a few years back. On this new album it’s no accident that “Ain’t Got No Dough” begins with the same piano riff that kicks off the old chestnut “Money (That’s What I Want).” You listen to “The Words In Red” and you would swear that Roger McGuinn stopped by the studio with his twelve-string. “Thirty Days In The Workhouse” is a swampy blues shuffle straight out of the Mississippi Delta, with its woeful protagonist pleading “Please Mr. Jailer/Unlock the door for me.”
But Case is not one to lament his plight. He is vigorous, energetic and raring to go. “It felt really good to rock again,” he says.
Peter Case plays Eddie’s Attic on July 16. Enter to win a pair of tickets by completing the form below