Making a case for Americana

Critically acclaimed singer/songwriter Peter Case to play Canal Street

By Justin Kreitzer
Photo: Peter Case will perform at Canal Street Tavern on Wednesday, Sept. 25

Though formerly of the seminal ’70s punk band The Nerves and ’80s power-pop acts The Plimsouls and The Breakaways, veteran singer/songwriter Peter Case has been writing and recording as a solo act for much longer than he was ever in those three bands combined.  In fact, as a producer and solo act, the San Francisco-based musician has been nominated for a Grammy on three occasions – once for his 1986 self-titled debut solo album and more recently for his production work on a tribute album from Blues legend Mississippi John Hurt. Case is currently in the studio working on his 11th solo album and the follow-up to his most recent acclaimed albums – 2007’s Grammy-nominated Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John and 2010’s Wig!

Peter Case is “On The Way Downtown” and will bring his dynamic Americana-inspired blend of blues, folk and rock to Canal Street Tavern along with guest Tod Weidner Wednesday, Sept. 25 for his first performance in Dayton in a long time.

In anticipation of his upcoming show and in between his various studio projects, Case spoke to Dayton City Paper about his rich musical history, his current projects including his upcoming album and more.

You were nominated for a Grammy as the producer of Avalon Blues, a tribute album to blues guitarist Mississippi John Hurt You. Recently, you just finished producing an album.  Are you at liberty to divulge any of the juicy details?  

On the John Hurt record we had Steve Earle, John Hiatt, Taj Mahal, Lucinda Williams, Ben Harper, Beck and a large group of other John Hurt-influenced musicians; each played one of their favorite Mississippi John Hurt songs. It was a labor of love for everyone involved, and I was very proud of the record. I produce records for other people, but it’s always different. It’s fun to do and I feel like it’s a service I can provide, since I’ve spent a lot of time over the years in studios making records, often with top producers like T-Bone Burnett, Mitchell Froom and Don Gehman, and each of them taught me a lot about the art. This new record was for a popular Belgian artist, but I can’t say the name until they announce the release themselves. – Peter Case

In addition, you are getting ready to enter the studio again to record a new solo album.  What direction do you plan on going with this new set of songs? Can you tell us what we can expect from the new album? Is there a lyrical theme?  

I’ve been writing new songs, some of which I hope to premier on my trip to Dayton. I’m hoping to do something fresh with the songs on this new record, which I feel are some of my best. The theme of the lyrics is Life in America, Now; Love, Justice, Trouble, Humor … the way it looks in the current scene. – PC

Each year, you tour over a third of the year. After all of these years, what inspires you to keep touring and writing music?  

I love performing live. Music sounds best live, and something just happens when I see the audience out there. It seems to make all the travel, business struggles, hassles on the road and everything else worth it. – PC

You have toured all over the world but have you ever played in Dayton before? Do you have any special connection to the Dayton music scene that we might not be aware of?  

Yes, I’ve played there in the ’80s and ’90s. Mick [Montgomery], the owner of the club is someone I’ve always respected, as a club owner who really cares about music and tries to bring quality shows to his venue in Dayton. – PC

With such a rich musical history to cull from, what can we expect from your live show?  Will you be testing out any of your new songs?  

I’ll be focused on songs from my two most recent Yep Roc albums, Wig! and Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John, as well as new material, and songs from all different eras of my career, going all the way back to The Nerves and The Plimsouls. I’ll also play some blues, which I’ve included in my shows from the beginning – even The Plimsouls played the blues at times – and one or two favorites from the songwriter genre, by other writers. I consider myself in the lineage of Woody Guthrie-type musical storytellers, using American blues, folk, country and rock n’ roll to tell my stories. I’ll be playing a lot of guitar in tunings, on 6- and 12-strings. And I’ll blow some harmonica, an instrument that I’ve been playing since the ’60s. It’s going to be a blast, and I’m looking forward to it! – PC

Peter Case will play on Wednesday, Sept. 25 at Canal Street Tavern, 308 E. First St. at 8 p.m. Special guest opener will be Tod Weidner. Tickets are $10. For more information, please visit or

Reach DCP freelance writer Justin Kreitzer at


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Reach DCP freelance writer Justin Kreitzer at

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