Peter Case Flying Saucer Blues

Ex-Plimsoul Peter Case's seventh solo album is his best since his 1986 debut, mainly on the strength of the hooks. His talent for wonderfully rich lyrics never deserted him, but he often saddled his recent efforts with pedestrian melodies that were serviceable yet seldom noteworthy. It was almost like he didn't want to draw attention away from the words. But now, his vocals are raspier, even more resonant and full of character than before. The instrumentation is pure roots all the way - mostly acoustic with colour from mandolin, Dobro, steel guitars and harmonium, but the songs all have a classic pop core to them. Imagine what we'd have had if Paul Westerberg hadn't lost his gift for great songs when he dried out and grew up. If the ex-'Mat had simultaneously moved towards the rootsier end of the musical spectrum, it might have sounded like this. It's as if Case has taken the very best bits from the Band and Big Star and made them the foundation of his work. The result is clear-eyed and mature, and we're left with a damn fine CD. (Vanguard)