Case is a neo-traditional hymnologist who sings the gospel of what might longingly be called "old country." His new album, Torn Again, marks his maturation from tormented pop artist to American expressionist, one who is pulled between the need to relate what there is and what there has to be. Case's lyrical elegies to hope are so true in their despair that each song becomes a minor tribute to possibility.
But Case is more than just a white-boy troubadour paying lip service to the plight of a people caught in the steel-trap of fate. Here is a man who emerges from the morass of the Nashville assembly line to recall the great and not yet lost tradition of American songwriters. Witness his recent work, not just on Torn Again, but on Sings Like Hell, and the hauntingly apt "A Working Man Can't Get Nowhere Today"from Tulare Dust, a fine multi-artist tribute to Merle Haggard. On all these releases, Case reclaims the vitality of country music, recasting traditional tunes and infusing the past with his own sense of future.
A perfectionist who makes mistakes, a singer guilty of the occasional poor rhyme or creaky high note, a pop 'star' who sings about sex and love and knows they aren't the same, Peter Case documents that mercurial year numbered 1995 as one of perfect failure, a year he describes in song as "a whole world turning blue." We need more artists like Case, down-home superstars of the psyche who can take a year's worth of artifice and make it real.