Peter Case – Hwy 62 (review)

Peter Case – Hwy 62 (Omnivore Recordings) review

Pack your bags for a musical roadtrip

Hwy 62 is the only east-west highway that connects Mexico with the Canadian border. It’s also the name of Peter Case’s first new album in five years. Like that long stretch of road, his new record winds through many aspects of American music, making unexpected stops along the way.

Case returns once again to his acoustic roots (something he began as a solo artist over 30 years ago). The record kicks off with one of his strongest songs in years – “Pelican Bay” is a biting commentary on the state of our prison system in America, featuring just Case’s heavily-echoed 12-string and voice. “Waiting on a Plane” deals with the foils of air travel over a gentle, loping melody with light brushes for percussion.

The cinematic “New Mexico” is a tribute to Buddy Holly, featuring fine slide work from guest Ben Harper.

Case has improved his storytelling ability, especially on display on “Water From a Stone,” featuring a wide cast of characters, from a border patrol officer , an orphaned child, to a man making six figures but owing it all in student loans. The surprisingly buoyant “All Dressed Up (For Trial)” chronicles a doomed defendant whose deck is stacked against him.

The wistful “The Long Good Time” shows Case looking back to his teenage years: “my band was playing in the basement / driving folks out of their minds / mother called down from the top of the stairs / boys play that nice song about suicide.”

The lone track not written by Case is “Long Time Gone,” an obscure Dylan song that remained unreleased for years. The gentle “Bluebells” is a eulogy for a lost friend, with fine harmony from Cindy Wasserman.

The disc closes with the honky tonk piano instrumental, “Hwy 62,” played by Case himself.

There’s a warmth to these acoustic-based recordings – it’s obvious things were done in analog. Like that open road that beckons you, Hwy 62 is worth taking for a spin —Tony Peters