Various Artists

A Case for Case: A Tribute to the Songs of Peter Case

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At a sprawling 48 tracks spread out over three discs, maybe a better name for this set of Peter Case covers would be "A Case of Peter Case". Regardless, this is an impressive undertaking featuring 47 acts, all from the Americana genre, weighing in with their take on 47 Peter Case songs. Case himself closes out the set with a live version of "Beyond the Blues," not coincidently the same tune that kicks off the proceedings on disc one, track one in a version by Hayes Carll. Each performer also writes pithy notes recounting Case's extraordinary talents, his winning personality and/or the song they chose. Many are personal friends (even ex-wife Victoria Williams contributes), and have worked with, or at least crossed paths with the prolific singer/songwriter. The set succeeds on a variety of levels, not the least of which is to introduce Case to a larger audience. He has inexplicably remained under the radar despite the consistently high quality of his songs, through a career that careens from the rock of the short-lived Nerves to the far more influential Plimsouls' power pop and the sturdy, storytelling folk-rock that provides the fodder for the majority of these covers. All of the participants are respectful, arguably unduly so, of the material, generally sticking close to the original arrangements. Many on this extensive roster will be unknown even to Americana fans, but there are enough notable headliners such as Dave Alvin, John Prine, Joe Ely, Kim Richey, James McMurtry, and Steve Wynn to entice many roots fans to take a chance on the rest. Bringing in a few higher profile stars would help the disc's visibility even more. Still, there is plenty of quality music here and part of the fun is finding a hidden gem by a heretofore unheard of troubadour, a word often used when describing Case. But for everyone's good intentions, few of these tracks transcend Case's own versions because his distinctive voice and subtle humor are missing. The release also serves as a bittersweet reminder that, as of this album's 2006 appearance, a comprehensive, cross-label collection of Case's own work in unavailable. This would make a stronger double-disc, but expanded to three platters, there are too many tracks that don't connect. Some of the readings are a bit bland and others seem rushed. Regardless, there is so much quality music here, all of it performed with true affection, that it's senseless to be picky. Each listener will find personal highlights and can skip the rest. Funds from the proceeds of this disc go to benefit the Hungry for Music charity organization.

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