A buzz around Peter Case's 'beeline'

Peter Case plays Club Helsinki on October 24

by Seth Rogovoy

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass., October 17, 2002) – Peter Case’s musical career follows the road map of many of the twists and turns of popular music of the last quarter century. In the mid-1970s, the self-described “rock and roll folksinger” co-founded the seminal West Coast punk-rock band, the Nerves, who toured with the Ramones in 1977. The next year, the Buffalo native moved to Los Angeles and formed the Plimsouls, anticipating the new-wave, power-pop trend of the early-1980s.

His 1986 eponymous solo debut, produced by T-Bone Burnett and Mitchell Froom, garnered him a Grammy nomination, a college-radio hit (“Steel Strings”), raves from Bruce Springsteen, and an opening slot on an arena tour headlined by Jackson Browne.

Since that time, Case has occasionally performed as a touring musician with R.E.M. He has released nine solo albums, including a collection of folk-blues songs and his latest album of acoustic folk-rock, Beeline (Vanguard). Last year, he won his second Grammy nomination as the producer of Avalon Blues, a tribute to blues guitarist Mississippi John Hurt featuring performances by Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams and Dave Alvin.

Beeline is a stripped-down affair, 10 new songs featuring Case on guitar, harmonica, piano and vocals, accompanied by his son, Joshua, on guitar, bassist Dave Meshell, and several drummers and percussionists. Bits of Sixties psychedelia snake through some of the tunes, while others are more organic. The sum effect is not entirely different from some of Beck’s more folk-oriented efforts.

On his website – -- Case has posted a musical mission statement: “I tell people now I play folk-rock, and they seem to understand. But the whole truth is more complex: I’m a singer-songwriter that uses all the American styles to get my stories across: blues, rock ‘n’ roll, country, soul, r&b and folk, plus some rhythmic influences from around the world. I’m trying to forge my own style out of those inherited materials. I’ve always been into dynamic, emotionally-charged music you could use to tell a story or paint a picture.”

Case performs with his band at Club Helsinki next Thursday, October 24, at 9. Also coming to Helsinki is Australian singer-guitarist Jeff Lang tonight, with opener Dayna Kurtz, formerly of Northampton, now of Paterson, N.J., and reggae band Black Rebels on Saturday night. Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks return to Helsinki on Sunday night.

Kay Hanley

Her voice is a lot better known than her name, but with her new album, Cherry Marmalade (Zoe) and her new tour – which stops at the Iron Horse in Northampton tomorrow night – Kay Hanley hopes to correct that.

As the lead singer of the mid-1990s Boston pop band Letters to Cleo, Hanley’s voice fueled the rise of the band’s hit single, “Here and Now,” into the Top 10. But it was probably her role as the singing voice of Josie on the soundtrack of the hit movie, “Josie and the Pussycats,” produced by Babyface, that made Hanley’s voice so instantly recognizable.

With Cherry Marmalade, Hanley, the mother of a two-year-old daughter, hopes to carve out an identity of her own. She does so on songs not entirely unlike those of her former band – her guitar player and co-songwriter, Michael Eisenstein, was also a member of Letters to Cleo, and also plays the role of husband in real life – and her sharp vocals cut through the hook-filled arrangements, not unlike Boston divas Juliana Hatfield and Aimee Mann who also carved out solo careers after leaving their bands behind.

Boston fans apparently still love Hanley – she was voted “Best Boston Female Vocalist” in this year’s music poll by readers of the Boston Phoenix and listeners to WFNX-FM.

David Poe

In his relatively young career, David Poe has already opened shows for the likes of Bob Dylan, 10,000 Maniacs, Lisa Loeb, Ron Sexsmith and Jonathan Richman. Presumably, when he plays for intimate audiences this weekend at the Iron Horse Music Hall in Northampton on Saturday night and at the Larkin in Albany on Sunday, he won’t be intimidated.

The Dayton, Ohio, native, who has called New York City home for the last decade, released his self-titled debut in 1997. He kept fans waiting five years for the follow-up, the aptly-titled Late Album (Epic), which was finally released this summer. Like Poe’s debut, his new album consists of his signature ethereal folk-pop in the John Lennon by way of Crowded House vein.

[This column originally appeared in the Berkshire Eagle on October 18, 2002. Copyright Seth Rogovoy 2002. All rights reserved.]

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