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music: Back to Basics

After a career in pop and punk, Peter Case unplugged and went off on his own.


Case built on this acceptance through nine CDs and expanded his audience by creating unique and accessible work. His recently released CD "Beeline" is one that was carefully crafted yet recorded quickly with a spontaneous feel. Mixing Indian, folk, rock and blues styles, the songs speak of hope and perseverance in hard times. Case brings his singular musical vision to Ashland Coffee & Tea Saturday.

"It's a journey about love and having faith. … going through hard times but knowing you're in good hands," Case says, explaining his music. "Just hang in there and keep working."

Case has followed his own advice throughout his career. He learned guitar as a youngster in upstate New York after playing classical piano and the saxophone. Early influences, such as the Beat poets and Bob Dylan, pushed Case into writing songs "as soon as I knew C and A minor (chords)." He quit school in the ninth grade to hitchhike the rambling troubadour route through the Northeast and Canada, and by 1973 Case was busking on San Francisco's streets. Two years later, a friend asked him to join early punkers the Nerves on bass, and Case grabbed his chance.

"I didn't have an address. … Joining a crummy rock band was a big step up for me."

The 'crummy rock band' toured with the Ramones and Devo, and was one of the first to independently release its records. Blondie also recorded a Nerves tune, and Case took this as a sign to move on.

"It validated the music in a way…[and] was the impetus to start my own band."

Case founded the Plimsouls in1979, and the group found radio success in 1982 with "A Million Miles Away." But Case's songwriting moved from a pop format to more traditional realms of American music as he turned to performing solo acoustic shows. His 1985 release "Peter Case" met critical raves. Sixteen years of tours and eight recordings later, Case took time off from songwriting in 2001 to produce the Grammy-nominated "Avalon Blues: A Tribute to the Music of Mississippi John Hurt" to honor one of his guitar influences.

But Case's first passion is performing live, and Saturday's show should be an eclectic mix of "Beeline" tunes, older songs and maybe some obscure blues covers.

"I love playing live. I love playing solo. … It's different every night. I just feel the air, feel the people. I'm not worried about reproducing (recordings). It's about trying to capture the feeling and intensity."

Peter Case plays Ashland Coffee & Tea, Saturday, Oct. 12, at 8 p.m. Louis Ledford opens the all-ages show. Tickets are $15 and available at the shop and through (800) 594-tixx or Call 798-1702 for information. Case will also be appearing at Plan 9, 3012 W. Cary St., at 3 p.m. that day. Free show. Call 353-9996.

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