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Like most touring artists, Peter Case has spent a lot of time behind the wheel in the middle of the night, heading to the next gig. Often touring solo, Case still kept in contact with his best friend: the radio. The Midnight Broadcast is his tribute to those times, a set of covers from the American folk, country and blues catalog reminiscent of the songs he’d hear on one of those late night journeys. Recording with producer Ron Franklin in a church with acoustic guitars, piano, some miscellaneous percussion and what sounds like a harmonium, Case moves through songs both old (St. Louis Jimmy’s “Going Down Slow,” Mance Lipscomb’s “Charlie James,” which he first recorded on The Man With the Blue Post-Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditonalist Guitar, several public domain tunes) and relatively recent (Paul Metsers’ “Fare Well to the Gold, Bob Dylan’s “Early Roman Kings” and “This Wheel’s On Fire”), singing them all like he wrote them. Just in case anyone thinks he’s abandoned his own pen, Case opens the record with a piano-based original, the stately “Just Hanging On.” The record also includes a few fake rants, just to remind us of how little rules radio hosts often faced in the middle of the night.
While still best known for his new wave and power pop work with the Plimsouls and the Nerves (despite neither of those bands having existed in years, if not decades), Case is at his best when he’s filtering what’s now called Americana through his own unique brain. As wonderful as his full band records usually are, there’s something special about hearing Case stripped down to just an acoustic guitar, a piano and minimal percussion accompaniment, as it allows the spotlight to shine on what may be his greatest virtue: his soulful sweet ‘n’ sour singing, which hasn’t lost a stitch to age. While listening to The Midnight Broadcast does indeed evoke long drives down endless highways, Case’s distinctive voice and POV gives it an injection of that other feeling that makes travel so special: coming home.
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