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Peter Case

Flying Saucer Blues

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By Holly Crenshaw  

In an age thick with singer-songwriters, it’s still rare to come across a serious tunesmith who doesn’t take himself too seriously.  Someone, perhaps, with sufficient brains, wit and charm to pique a listener’s interest as quickly as Peter Case manages to do with the opening verse of Flying Saucer Blues.  To wit: “The road that I’ve been on since I was two / Well, I just found out that it don’t go through / payday passed / my ship came and went / the apocalypse is over and I still owe rent.”   

Given Case’s past flirtations with punk and pop success, most notably as a member of the Plimsouls, it’s tempting to read these lines as personal biography.  But like virtually everything Case composes, the lyrics aren’t freighted with a sense of hidden meaning or deep significance.  They’re merely the wry observations of a man who finds plenty of irony, humor and poignancy in the world -- enough, as it turns out, to make one impressive album after another. 

In some respects, Flying Saucer Blues doesn’t differ much from its entertaining predecessor, 1998’s Full Service No Waiting.  Producer Andrew Williams returns to the studio again, along with a now familiar lineup of musicians.  But, according to Case, “the last record was sparser.  This one has deeper grooves.”  He points to the Beatles’Rubber Soul as a source of inspiration.  “When they did Rubber Soul, the Beatles were still this little guitar band, but they were starting to write these great songs.  They’d use these weird chords for dramatic effect.”   If the Beatles connection isn’t always apparent on Flying Saucer Blues, there’s no shortage of great songs, or at least several songs that swiftly rise to the level of Case’s best work, which is no small accomplishment. 

In fact, what ultimately distinguishes this album from Case’s previous recordings are the songs themselves.  Whether it’s the shamelessly catchy "Coulda, Shoulda Woulda," the heart aching lament "Cold Trail Blues" or the after-hours Memphis ode "Walking Home Late," the music conjures a variety of moods and places with refreshing honesty and understated ease.

Holly Crenshaw, a long-time staff writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, writes frequently about music and the arts.