Peter Case has enjoyed a long career in music. His first band, The Nerves, gave us “Hanging on the Telephone”, a hit for Blondie. Next up he headed great power-pop ensemble The Plimsouls whose hit “A Million Miles Away” is one of the era’s true classics. Going solo he released the epic The Man with the Blue Post-Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditionalist Guitar in 1989, and from then he has explored the avenues of folk, blues and roots music, and his newest, and first in five years HWY 62 is an apt summation of Peter Case, the artist.
Opening with the angry “Pelican Bay” which takes America to task for its abhorrent level of people in prisons (Pelican Bay is a Supermax prison in California), Case illustrates that even the most venomous themes can still sound gorgeous, with his 12-string guitar shimmering throughout. Joined by a “who’s who” of legendary players, including Ben Harper on slide guitar, D.J. Bonebrake from X on drums, PiL’s Jebin Bruni on keyboards and produced by Case and Sheldon Gomberg (whose credits includes Warren Zevon, Ryan Adams and tons more), the album is nearly flawless in both content and execution. From Harper’s sensuous, snaking slide in “New Mexico”, or the pop-tinged “All Dressed Up (For Trial)”, Case knows exactly what the song needs, and delivers it in spades. “If I Go Crazy” is Case, bluesman, riding that 12 string, with Bruni’s honky-tonk piano supporting. “The Long Good Time” slows it down for Case’s remembrance of times past, with the bittersweet hope of a future unknown. His take on Dylan’s “Long Time Gone” updates the sparse, early Bob attempt with upright bass and a loping drum pattern that is seemingly tailor-made for Case’s style.
HWY 62 is one of the most assured and well-crafted records you’ll hear in this or any other year, a grand example of Peter Case’s vison, one that has been on target no matter the generation or the prevailing musical mood of the time. In fact, with a record this good, superlatives fall short. Just listen.