Ann and Phil Case
Date and Time
Sunday, December 18th, 2011 at 2:45pm
by John Lupton
There is often a tendency, on hearing the description "old-time music," to equate it with the hard-driving Southern and Appalachian string band sound popularized on record in the 1920s by bands like The Skillet Lickers and during the revival years of the 1970s by outfits like the Highwoods String Band, but old-time and old country music has always had an equally strong tradition of duet singing, particularly by the famous brother acts such as The Monroe Brothers, the Delmore Brothers, The Blue Sky Boys and many others were enormously popular on radio in the early years of the country music industry. In the later years of the century, that tradition of close harmony singing was carried on by people like Ginny Hawker & Kay Justice, Jody Stecher & Kate Brislin, and Ann & Phil Case.
Both native Ohioans, Ann was born in Cincinnati in 1963, one of six children of parents who owned a printing and copying business, while Phil was born ten years earlier in Middletown, the son of a machinist who played trumpet in dance bands on the side. Ann's mother was musical also, teaching guitar chords to Ann and her siblings at an early age. As a teenager, Ann was captured by the music of Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell, and as the years went on, she drifted farther into the world of folk music, listening to favorites as varied as Nancy Griffith, Tish Hinojosa and Irish singer Mary Black while learning to play guitar and develop her vocal talent. Phil was a fan of the surf bands of the 1960s, but found that he was being drawn to many other kinds of music as well. Starting with the saxophone at age 11, within two years he was trying to learn Beatles songs on the guitar, eventually adding banjo and mandolin to his repertoire. After meeting in 1982, Ann and Phil dated for eight years before marrying in 1990. They began singing and playing together at home, and not long after, Phil was taking a series of electric guitar lessons in which the instructor would always include a Carter Family song as part of the assignments. Those songs soon came to be his favorite part of the lessons. While attending the Augusta Heritage Series in Elkins, WV during the 1990s, they met Justice, who was an instructor there that year. Justice encouraged them to explore their talents in old-time music, and they found that it suited not only their tastes but their talents as well, leading to the 1996 release of their first album, The Springtime of Life, a collection of tunes by seminal country musicians like The Carter Family and Ola Belle Reed that highlighted Phil's instrumental dexterity and versatility as well as Ann's clear, rich, sparkling voice. Though the album was self-released on their own Dry Run label, it was critically well-received in the folk music world and received widespread radio airplay on folk programs across the U.S. and Canada. By 1999, the Cases were still Ohio-based, living in the Dayton area and planning a follow-up release.