Peter Case’s eighth solo record finds the former Plimsouls power pop guy turned folk-blues troubadour exploring some new sonic textures. Oddly, almost all of them are borrowed from Indian classical music. This is no casual flirtation either with just a touch of sitar here or there to evoke the ’60s as some artists might do. Fully half of the record=EDs ten songs feature such traditional Indian instruments as tamboura (like the sitar, it’s a stringed instrument that produces the characteristic drone), harmonium (a reed organ with hand pumped bellows), and some tabla-style drums played by Sandy Chila.
The approach works best on “Lost in the Sky” and the set-closing “First Light,” which essentially graft the new sounds onto more conventional Case folk compositions. The opening “If You Got a Light to Shine” and “Evening Raga” may combine the Indian textures more organically, but suffer from dull melodies and lyrics.
While it’s nice to hear Case and longtime producer Andrew Williams take some chances, Case is still at his best when he sticks to the tried and true as on “I Hear Your Voice” and “Gone.” Those songs feature pretty melodies and just a couple of acoustic guitars playing off each other. Case also offers a terrific cover of kindred spirit Townes Van Zandt’s “Ain’t Leaving Your Love.” And “Manana Champeen” is one of the more straightforward pop songs Case has done in awhile. Here he engagingly talk-sings his way through the verses, which include a few Westerberg-ian turns of phrase. Very nice stuff.