When I first started writing this column, one of my earliest articles featured Paul Case, and I commented that every musician was jealous because he spent half the year in the Adirondacks and the other half in the Keys.
Paul has just released a new CD, "This Love," and now we all have another reason to be jealous. This album is impeccable, with material, performances by all musicians, and production all first rate.
Those of us who are of a certain age think of Paul Case as a hard-rocking guitar hero, and some may be surprised at how introspective and how… well, mellow, this CD is. That change in tone is not accidental.
"I wrote this from an aspect of a songwriter. It's not a guitar album," notes Case. "I’ve done everything else; I’ve made blues albums, I’ve made rock albums. This one’s for me. This is a songwriter’s album."
And it represents songwriting at its highest and most diverse level. When an album has no real weak spots, it’s hard to pick any tracks that particularly stand out, but highlights would include the catchy "Luck In My Pocket," which tells us that, however bad things may seem, there’s always hope it will get better, segueing into "Twisted," a jaunty Doc Watson-style fingerpicking tribute to those of us who may be a couple sandwiches short of a picnic.
The upbeat title track, with its driving ostinato bass and synth string lines, wouldn’t be out of place in a ‘70’s R&B compilation, while the lush harmonies in "You Can Fly" paint a picture of a father telling a son that the world can be whatever you make it.
Those who are familiar with Paul’s sometimes fiery Facebook persona may be wondering where the political/social commentary is. I give you "Oh Boy," as close to a straight-ahead rocker as you’ll find on the record.
"This Town," an homage to the places Case has lived, features a wistful pedal steel part from the master, George Newton, which creates the perfect saloon vibe. And the album finishes on a delicate note with the tender look back at a life well lived, "Mother Nature," which calls to mind very early Kris Kristofferson or John Prine at his most sensitive.
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While the material and Case’s performances are top notch, what really makes it special are the contributions of a who’s who of guest musicians, including Rolland Brunet (bass), Rob Spagnoletti (percussion) and Sydney Pinto (background vocals) throughout, and special appearances by George Rossi, Gavin Hall, Dave Liddy, Mark Macri, Mark Doyle, George Newton, Mark Nanni, Bob Halligan Jr. and Case’s longtime duo partner, Billy Davidson.
The sound is clear and pristine, mixed, recorded and mastered by Jeff Moleski.
"I have to thank all the musicians who came out," added Paul. "Syracuse musicians, Utica musicians, everyone who came out and played."
"This Love" albums are available for $20 plus $3 shipping. Mail orders to Paul Case, PO Box 921, Old Forge, NY, 13420.
This article originally appeared on Observer-Dispatch: Utica music scene: Paul Case's 'This Love' marks introspective shift