October 3, 2002

Test Spin: Peter Case

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Peter Case’s eighth full length album, Beeline, is a collection of what seems at first listen to be fairly standard acoustic-folk-blues-rock. There’s an acoustic guitar, drums, occasional bluesy harmonica, and earnest male vocals. The songs fit the basic verse-chorus-verse structure, the choruses are catchy, and there’s some nice instrumental bridges. The album has a pleasant flow to it; the songs work well both together and on their own.

What you start to notice during the second listen is what makes this album stand out: immaculate guitar-work; skillfully interwoven hand drum patterns; interesting yet unobtrusive computer noises; harmonium and piano contributions; and more engaging lyrics than today’s standard fare.

The first track of the album, “If You Got a Light to Shine,” is a perfect example of Case and his band’s skill in combining unconventional elements with a well-worn, yet still pleasant, acoustic folk-rock guitar sound. The song begins with a breezy, quiet, synth/computer intro (think the combination of a didgeridoo, accordion, and a bumble-bee) that continues, blending so well that it’s almost unnoticed throughout the piece. For “It’s Cold Inside,” Case plays slide guitar with a glass bottleneck, lending the song plenty of twang and just enough soul.

“Something’s Coming” showcases Case’s lyrical abilities with lines like, “sucking on a lemon and feelin’ the chill/ you’re morphing in from nowheresville/ thinking of luck and love/ looking ahead.” Case consistently avoids clich