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  • Jon Houlon

Musings on No 2 Unalike (# 4)


Night Two, No 2 Unalike, Thursday, November 5th, 2015 @ Fergie's Pub Peter Case's "Charlie James" and my own "Hide Your Darkness Well"

I first heard Peter Case in 1986. I was driving down Rockville Pike when Weasel, my favorite DJ on my favorite station, WHFS, played "Echo Wars", the first song of Peter's self-titled solo debut on Geffen Records. I immediately steered my folks station wagon over to Waxie Maxie's and picked up a copy. This album (along with EC's "King of America" LP) was a beacon of light in the dark musical times known as the Eighties (in retrospect, the eighties weren't that bad ... the 90s and grunge were much worse!). Peter showed me (and a lot of other people as well) a way forward with his soulful songs and singing and the bare bones but compelling way T-Bone Burnett, his producer and friend, presented them. Somehow, a few years later, Peter outdid himself releasing his second album entitled "Blue Guitar" (actually, the title is much longer than that but you'll have to do the deep research to find out). Peter says "Blue Guitar" is a record about homelessness, not a very popular topic during the Reagan years (or now for that matter). Check out the song, "Poor Old Tom": if there's a better song about the dispossessed, I haven't heard it. "The word for him was "nevertheless" // He fought for freedom never took a free breath". I saw Peter perform this song at the Lone Star Cafe in NYC in 1989. His bass player actually broke a string and while they sorted it out, Peter stepped up to the mike and stilled the room with "Poor Old Tom". I recall my friend Adam who I'd dragged along -- who was a Canadian -- leaning and saying, "Oh, now I get it." Anyway, "Charlie James" is the first cut and only non-original on the record. It is a song attributed to Texas bluesman Mance Lipscomb. I could never figure out how Peter slid this one by the Geffen executives as the opening track on "Blue Guitar." So stark and defiantly non-commercial. Sets the tone for the bitter yet uplifting tales that follow. Some of the No 2 Unalike pairings were pretty obvious. This one maybe not so much. But when I wrote "Hide Your Darkness Well", I definitely had the vibe of PC's Charlie James in mind. See if you can hear it. And feel it too.

- Jon Houlon


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