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Peter Case – “Travelin’ Light” would make Jimmie Rodgers proud

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SONG TITLE: TRAVELIN’ LIGHT
PERFORMER: PETER CASE
SONGWRITER: PETER CASE
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1989
COMMENTS: Peter Case is probably about as close to Jimmie Rodgers’ spirit as we have gotten in the last couple of generations of songwriters. This is his classic invitation to the road. “So you’re a mixed up kid, come on and join the crowd of the ones who only fit where they’re not allowed.” He gave life to the romance of the hobo like no one since the Singin’ Brakeman.

Peter Case is considerably more sophisticated as a wordsmith though, with no disrespect intended for the classics. He really explains a lot in a few words, as in noting that when the character left his “childhood home no one cared to trace the tracks you laid.” Without getting overtly “artistic” about it, at his best he was totally articulate and detailed in both the physical and emotional descriptions of the joys of drifting and the emotional turmoil that keeps them moving.

Sometimes he did both at once. The classic example of Peter Case lyric writing is the line in the chorus here about having “a hole in your sole where the wind blows through” in describing the troubles of a young drifter learning the ropes. He could have used a few days partnered up with Roger Miller’s “king of the road.”

Most important, Case wrote at least as good and maybe better a melody as Rodgers or Miller ever wrote. Again, this is praise for the Mr. Case, not derision of the classics. He worked up good long extended melody lines, varied and distinctive, yet maintained an outstanding rhythmic thrust within the very tune, and the proper way the cadences work out is just outstanding craftsmanship.

Moreover, Case had the good services of a hotter band than any hobo you ever heard. The arrangements features the outstanding guitar work of David Hidalgo, on loan from Los Lobos. As side projects go, this song will whoop ass on even the Los Lobos song from Paul Simon’s Graceland – “All Around the World.”

They put a strong Mexican/Cajun gypsy spin on the song to make this a top flight swingin’ dance track that should theoretically have strong appeal to rock fans, classic country listeners, folkies, college kids, even Latin audiences.

You definitely MUST own the original Blue Guitar album, about which version of this song I’m talking. However, the St Jude album rates pretty high as well.

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  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    Case is the ex-Plimsouls guy?

    i saw a little bio about him on the tube not too long ago. he’s got a pretty big following (for a guy nobody’s ever heard of)

    and how can you not like a guy who’ll name one of his records Peter Case Sings Like Hell

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Yes, he was with the Plimsouls, but they are the least of his artistic achievements.

    He’s also considered a big name in modern acoustic music. I don’t pay a lot of attention to all the little movements and such what, but he’s big among such as the “no depression” wave and a couple of other sub-genres of acoustic music.

    I just know he’s written a bunch of stellar songs. If you don’t own Blue Guitar and the eponymous Peter Case album, your life just isn’t complete.

  • http://www.foliage.com/~marks Mark Saleski

    my life’s not complete?

    dang, i just knew there was a problem.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    As Hans and Franz would say, hear me now and believe me later. Get those albums and then tell me if I wasn’t right.

  • HW Saxton Jr.

    Al,This sounds like a mighty fine listen
    to me.I love Jimmie Rodgers.Even more than him I dig The Carlisle Bros. & The
    Delmore Bros. stuff with Fiddlin’Arthur Smith on Bluebird,but I digress.I just
    wanna know: Can he yodel???

  • David

    I once heard him say that he was homeless prior to the Plimsouls, and , when he was with him, after shows he’d immediately go hang out with the homeless guys outside the club, because those were the people he felt most comfortable with. I think that’s pretty cool.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Yeah, Case has done some rambling and bumming around. I forget some of his personal details, but he’s been there and done that. If memory serves, he ran away from home at 15 or 16, hit the road. I take “Travelin’ Light” as largely autobiographical.