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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Case's Dualism Finds Magic in Munoz's Mode

August 15, 1994|CHRIS WILLMAN

Do you prefer Peter Case the folk revivalist of the late '80s, or might you be a stickler for Peter Case the blissfully tuneful garage-rocker of the late '70s and early '80s?

These being the accommodating mid-'90s, you get 'em both: The singer-songwriter's latest release is "Peter Case Sings Like Hell," an acoustic album of mostly old blues tunes on the folk-oriented Vanguard label. Yet he's also reconciled enough to rock to have reunited his old group, the Plimsouls, for a rerecording of their signature song "A Million Miles Away," as heard on the "Speed" soundtrack.

Case didn't sing "Miles" or all that much of the "Like Hell" collection on Friday at McCabe's, yet both sides of his musical personality were abundantly represented. An hour-plus opening set found him in solo-troubadour form, resurrecting the Stanley Brothers, Blind Willie McTell and the Civil War era and drawing upon his own narrative ballads, many of them unreleased.

An even longer second set was devoted to reasonably thrashy electric-band format, with Case and rhythm section eventually being joined for six numbers by Plimsouls guitar commando Eddie Munoz. Rewarding as Case is on his own, bona fide magic kicked in with Munoz's first tremolo appearance on the post-quake L.A. anthem "This Town's a Riot," excitingly shifting the show from dust-bowl to temblor mode.

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