Let us now look deep into the heart of a downtown Tuesday.
At the Kentucky Theatre will be the return of veteran British songsmith Richard Thompson, who has become a semi-regular of the Troubadour Concerts Series. This outing will differ from past visits, though. Instead of a solo acoustic performance, Thompson – in keeping with the theme and title his newest album, Electric – will perform with an amped-up trio.
But what really – and quite unintentionally – distinguishes Thompson’s return is that his performance will fall so close, in terms of time and proximity, to another storied songsmith. Directly across the street from the Kentucky on Tuesday will be Peter Case.
Like Thompson, whose career ignited in the late ’60s during his tenure with the vanguard British folk-rock troupe Fairport Convention, Case’s career began to catch ears on the West Coast at the dawn of the ’80s in the post-punk pop brigade The Plimsouls. A solo career ensued in 1986 with a self-titled T Bone Burnett-produced recording. From there, the emphasis shifted more toward songcraft, whether it was through records of concert-performed cover tunes (1993’s Peter Case Sings Like Hell), more-folk derived sets of his own songs (2000’s extraordinary Flying Saucer Blues) or spirited blues reflections (2007’s Grammy-nominated Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John).
Case possesses a grand gift for storytelling, both in and out of his songs. In 2006, he published a paperback memoir of the earliest days of his career, concentrating on his move to California after spending his childhood and high school years in Buffalo, N.Y. The book, As Far as You Can Get Without a Passport, is loaded with characters and scenarios of an especially colorful youth.
“Johnny lives in a junkyard on the Bay in Sausalito,” Case writes in an early chapter called Yogananda Streetfights. “And he’s invited me to check it out sometime. It’s supposed to be a swell place to crash in a pinch.”
Case’s newest album is The Case Files, a hodgepodge of outtakes, demos, cover tunes and more, with a seemingly purposeful lack of credits and liner notes. A 2005 trio version of the roots classic Milk Cow Blues, for example, is listed as having been cut “live at some joint in Houston.”
Details and particulars notwithstanding, Case is simply one of the best: a writer as attuned to the mischievous nature of the human condition as he is to the boundless stylistic possibilities that are available to bring his storytelling to life.
Case’s concert is set to begin at 9. Let’s hope the good folks at Natasha’s hold showtime until about 9:30, which is a good estimate for when the Thompson concert should wind down at the Kentucky. These are performances that appeal to very like-minded audiences. It seems a shame not to let that fan base enjoy the full scope of all the wonderful music emanating from both sides of Main Street on Tuesday.
Peter Case performs at 9 p.m. April 9 at Natasha’s Bistro, 112 Esplanade. Tickets are $15. Call (859) 259-2754 or got to Beetnik.com.