Archive for the Neko Case Category

Top 20 of 2009: 9-7

Posted in Buddy and Julie Miller, Neko Case, Those Darlins, Top 20 of 2009 on January 2, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

I’ve fallen a little behind over the Holidays, but I’m going to try to get back on track and get the list finished up soon. We’ll start back today with #9.

#9 – Written in Chalk by Buddy & Julie Miller

Based solely on critical acclaim and awards, this would be the number one album on the list… hands down. Buddy & Julie nearly swept the Americana Music Awards in September. The husband and wife team captured awards for Duo/Group of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year for “Chalk” (with Patty Griffin). Buddy also walked away with the Artist of the Year trophy as a solo prize. I obviously liked the CD when it came out back in the spring, but it was amazing to see just how this thing took off. It was the most played album on Americana Radio this year.

The album is not simply a Buddy and Julie Miller duet project as the title would suggest. They do, however, sing together in a few places… including the wistful “Ellis County” and the lustful “Gasoline & Matches.” There are other collaborations here as well, and they are what makes this album stand apart from Buddy and Julie’s 2001 self titled release (also an Americana Album of the Year winner). Patty Griffin lends her angelic voice to the previously mentioned “Chalk” with Buddy and “Don’t Say Goodbye” with Julie. Emmylou Harris and The McCrary Sisters pop up in a few places too. I’ll share one here with you featuring a duet with Buddy Miller and Robert Plant… two iconic voices.

Buddy & Julie Miller (feat. Robert Plant): What You Gonna Do Leroy? (Buy Album)

#8 – Those Darlins by Those Darlins

What can you say about Those Darlins? The band is fronted by three country gals with a punk rock spirit who go by the names of Jessi, Kelley, and Nikki Darlin (not their real surnames). They are known for raising ruckuses, inciting riots, and causing general chaos whenever and wherever they perform. In fact, their recent tour to support the release of their self titled debut album was called the “Dare America Tour.” During shows they openly encouraged their audiences to abandon all inhibitions and enjoy themselves as much as possible (they talked about it a bit when I interviewed them back in August). This record is about as fun as music can possibly get.

Musically, Those Darlins are a near perfect blend of X and The Carter Family. They even cover the Carter Family’s “Cannonball Blues” on this album. I described them once before as sounding like a female Uncle Tupelo or a slightly unhinged Loretta Lynn. The girls (along with their drummer, Sheriff Lin) have as much fire as Loretta ever did, and their Middle Tennessee roots (they hail from Murfreesboro, TN) lend a certain authenticity to their twang. I don’t know if Loretta ever got drunk and ate an entire chicken, but I like to think that she could have.

Those Darlins: The Whole Damn Thing (Buy Album)

#7 – Middle Cyclone by Neko Case

Neko Case utilized one of my favorite publicity gimmicks of 2009 to promote the release of Middle Cyclone. She made a financial donation to an animal rescue organization called “Best Friends” for every blog that posted the lead single from the album. She garnered a ton of attention for the album (and the single “People Got a Lot of Nerve”), and raised $4,000 for a very worthy cause. Of course, Neko has never needed any gimmicks to get my attention with her music, but I’m glad I was able to help expand her audience a bit with this one.

In what was, at times, a surreal interview with public television personality Tavis Smiley, Neko described this album as being mostly comprised of songs about “love and nature.” Many of the songs here actually do come off as love songs to the natural world. Neko sings of magpies and killer whales… owls and glaciers, and even titles one song “Never Turn You Back on Mother Earth.” The track I’m sharing here is one of those nature tracks as well. In “This Tornado Loves You,” Neko plays the roll of a tornado trying to express itself to a human. Yeah… I don’t really understand it either, but it’s a good song… and a good album.

Neko Case: This Tornado Loves You (Buy Album)

Random Weekend Post: A Neko Case Holiday

Posted in Meatwad, Neko Case on December 12, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

I don’t plan on posting a lot of holiday music here. There really won’t be a while lot of time for it once I start posting my “Best of 2009” list soon. These weekend posts, however, seem like the perfect place for something like this.

Neko Case was on my “Best of the Decade” list, and she’ll be on my “Best of 2009” list as well. This song has nothing to do with either of those lists.

Top 10 Americana Albums of the Decade: #5 – Blacklisted by Neko Case

Posted in Neko Case, Top 10 Americana Albums: 2000-2009 on November 25, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

You may notice that this album is a little different from the others on this list so far… and the ones that come after. Where most of the others on this list are mostly guitar driven with heavy doses of up-tempo rockers, 2002’s Blacklisted by Neko Case is a much more subdued and understated affair.

In fact, that understatedness led me to overlook this album for quite some time. I was first introduced to Neko through her debut album, 1997’s The Virginian, an album full of country rave ups and rockabilly stomps. As her music made the transition the darker sound and tone of Blacklisted, it took me a while to make the move with her.
Even as I hesitated to go along with Neko for the ride, I kept reading reviews on message boards and music mags about how wonderful and essential this album was. Every time I would read one of those reviews, I would go back and revisit this release. One day it just clicked.
I can’t say exactly what it was that finally put me over the top on this disc, but I think it’s probably safe to say that Neko’s voice had a lot to do with it. I once read her voice described somewhere as sounding like “Patsy Cline’s ghost.” I’ve always felt that was an appropriate comparison, and it really feels right here due to the etherial nature of most of the songs on this album and the subtle nods to Cline’s classic country sound. There is a natural resonance to Neko’s voice that shines throughout the album, but there’s also a bit of reverb added in the production on a few tracks that adds yet another otherworldly quality to her vocals.
As for the songs themselves… Blacklisted is a fairly dark album throughout, and the tone for that is set right off the bat with the album opening “Things That Scare Me.” Neko evokes images of birds frying on telephone wires and references to some sort of bloody revenge. That song is followed by my favorite track on the album, “Deep Red Bells.” Neko has said that this song deals with the sense of fear she felt while living in Washington state during the time the Green River Killer was at large. She has also said the song is an attempt to give voice to the Green River Killer’s victims, who were mostly prostitutes and runaways and who were often not given much sympathy in news reports of the slayings.
The darkness continues with threats of ruination in “Outro with Bees” and visions of plane crashes in “Lady Pilot.” Neko’s reading of the classic soul tune “Look For Me (I’ll Be Around)” comes across as a menacing warning to the object of her desires instead of a heartfelt display of devotion.
Even when the lyrics aren’t overtly dour, Neko’s band (including slide guitar wizard Jon Rauhouse and Dallas Good of The Sadies) does a great job of conveying that feeling by exercising restraint and keeping things relatively down beat. The music provides a perfect backdrop for Neko’s haunting and emotive vocals. Her voice is given room to soar even as the tone and themes of the album keep things grounded. Overall, the album meets the definition of the phrase beautiful sadness.
Here are two tracks from the disc… and one bonus cut. First is “Deep Red Bells,” my favorite cut and one that is full of wonderful and complex imagery. Next is Neko’s take on Aretha Franklin’s “Running Out of Fools.” Her reading of the soul/R&B classic adds an element of country heartbreak while still doing justice to Aretha’s original. Finally, since I mentioned her earlier… a bonus track from Miss Patsy Cline.
Neko Case: Deep Red Bells (Buy Album)
Neko Case: Runnin’ Out of Fools (Buy Album)
Patsy Cline: You’re Stronger Than Me (Buy Album)

Neko Case: Video for "People Got a Lot of Nerve"

Posted in Neko Case, youtube on March 23, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

I’m still loving the new Neko Case album Middle Cyclone. Here is the video for the lead single, “People Got a Lot of Nerve.” It is important to remember that they are called Killer whales for a reason…

One other note while I’m here…

I may not be as active here as I would like in the next few weeks. My wife and I are very close to buying our first home, and there will be many, many, many things to keep me busy over the next month or so. I will try to keep updating over that time, but it will likely be just little posts like this one for a while. I honestly have no idea how much time I’ll be able to devote to this site during the cleaning/painting/moving process that is to come.

I am more than excited to get set up in our new house, and I’m sure I’ll be back to full speed soon. I already have some big things planned for April. Just keep checking back, and I’ll try not to let things get too stale around here.

Even More Notes

Posted in Bishop Allen, Neko Case, Toumani Diabate on February 27, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Yeah… I know I just did a notes column earlier this week, but time crunches sometimes call for easier posts.

***Last month, I posted the first single off of Neko Case’s upcoming album Middle Cyclone. The album still isn’t due until March 3rd, but for a short time you can stream the whole thing from NPR’s website. It’s all part of NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast and a new “Exclusive First Listen” series they’re doing this year. Already, the site has streamed new releases from Andrew Bird, M. Ward, and the Animal Collective among others.

***Also, in case you aren’t already subscribed to the All Songs Considered podcast… this is your invitation. Each week, host Bob Boilen highlights a wide range of new music from all genres and styles. Whether it’s instrumental music from African kora player Toumani Diabate (now touring with Bela Fleck)… or the Brooklyn based pop of Bishop Allen (from this week’s episode)… each show always sends me searching for something new.

Toumani Diabate: Kaounding Cissoko (Buy Album)
Bishop Allen: The Ancient Commonsense of Things (Buy Album)

***The line-up for the March edition of Tennessee Shines has been announced. The bill consists of Theresa Anderson, Scott Miller (the unofficial Godfather of this blog), Donna the Buffalo, and The Gourds. Odds are it will be one heck of a show March 25th at The Bijou Theatre. If you want to make the trip to Knoxville for the show, get your tickets now. These shows almost always sell out, and I have a feeling this one might go a little faster than some others have. If you can’t go to the show, you can always listen live on WDVX.

***On a bit of a sad note… Singer/Songwriter/Guitarist Steven Page has left the Barenaked Ladies. Both Page and the rest of the band say the split is amicable, but the announcement comes less than a year after Page was arrested in New York for cocaine possession. Given the band’s goofy, clean-cut image it’s still hard for me to wrap my head around the charges, and even harder to believe Page has left the band. Even thought I came to it a bit late, their 1992 debut album Gordon was one of my absolute favorites in college.

Here are the Barenaked Ladies, with Steven Page, at their goofy best.

The Barenaked Ladies: Be My Yoko Ono (Buy Album)

New Neko Case Single: People Got a Lotta Nerve

Posted in Neko Case, youtube on January 15, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

As you probably know by now… I am a rather huge fan of Neko Case. Well… Neko’s new album Middle Cyclone will be released March 3rd from Anti Records, and she’s already released the first single from the album, “People Got a Lotta Nerve.”

That’s cool enough on its own, but Neko has put an extra spin on it by making the track freely available on the Anti Records blog. As an extra added bonus Neko is making a cash donation to the Best Friends Animal Society, a no kill animal shelter and the nation’s largest sanctuary for abused, abandoned, and special needs animals, for every blog that posts this track. She’s also making a donation for every iLike user that adds this song to his or her profile between now and February 3rd.

So, here is a brand new song from Neko Case, and a great way to help abandoned animals all in one shot. As a Neko Case fan, and the owner of a rescue dog (Deacon), I find this to be a win-win situation.

Below, you’ll find a video from Neko explaining the whole thing along with another video about the upcoming album. The download link and the link to pre-order the album are down there below the videos.

Neko Case: People Got a Lotta Nerve (Buy Album)

Rain

Posted in Autumn Boukadakis, Neko Case, Patty Griffin on December 10, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

This week’s theme over at Star Maker Machine is “Winter Wonderland,” and we’re all supposed to post songs about snow… which I did. However… It’s a bit tough for me to get into the winter spirit when it rained all night last night here in East Tennessee. Right now the temperatures are near sixty degrees and we have rain predicted for most of the rest of the week. Hardly a “Winter Wonderland.”

Which brings me to today’s post… a brief mini-mix of songs for a rainy day.

We’ll start with “Rain” from Patty Griffin’s 2002 album 1,000 Kisses. Patty is one of my favorite artists and is one of the best songwriters in the biz today. “Rain” is also my wife’s favorite song.

After that, “Rain Down” from Autumn Boukadakis’ (she goes by simply “Autumn”) 2008 album Velvet Sky. I was not aware of Autumn’s music until I was sent a copy of her sophomore album recently. She is a songwriter from Austin, TX who has covered Patty Griffin on each of her first two albums and works with Fats Kaplan and Danny Flowers on her new album. If you can judge an artist by the company they keep… I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on Autumn in the future.

We finish with Neko Case’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “Buckets of Rain.” Neko’s version of this song first appeared on a Starbuck’s Coffee CD called Sweetheart 2005: Love Songs in 2005. A live version can be found on her Live from Austin, TX CD from last year.

So here you go… songs for a gloomy rainy day.

Patty Griffin: Rain (Buy Album)
Autumn: Rain Down (Buy Album)
Neko Case: Buckets of Rain (Buy Album)

Links and such…

Posted in Alison Krauss, Buddy and Julie Miller, Neko Case, Robert Plant, Scott Miller, Tennessee Shines, The Steeldrivers, youtube on December 9, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

Just a few links to get you through the week…

* Scott Miller has made his new CD For Crying Out Loud available for pre-order at his website. Only 1,000 copies will be offered between now and December 17th online and at Miller’s shows… and once they’re gone, they’re gone. Orders placed before the 17th should arrive by Christmas. If you don’t get in on the pre-order, then you have to wait until March for the official release. All pre-order copies also include an enhanced CD feature with a twenty minute video on the making of the album that will not be on the official release. Oh yeah… Patty Griffin appears on the album as well. Get yours now.

* A couple of local acts have been added to this month’s edition of Tennessee Shines. Knoxville’s own Alex Leach and the Watauga Mountain Boys, Todd Steed and the Sons of Phere, and Christabel and The Jons will join Elizabeth Cook and The Hackensaw Boys for the show on New Year’s Eve. As always, the show will be hosted by Jim Lauderdale and broadcast live on WDVX.

* In my Top 5 post on Neko Case, I mentioned that she has just finished recording her new album. Well… the album now has a name (Middle Cyclone), a release date (March 3), and a killer album cover…

* March 3rd is also the release date for Buddy and Julie Miller’s newest effort, Written in Chalk. It comes eight years after their last collaboration, the self titled, Buddy and Julie Miller. Julie has been in ill health for the last few years, and it will be great to hear her voice once again. Julie wrote the majority of the songs on the album, and friends Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, and Robert Plant come along for the ride on the album. Here’s a taste of that 2001 release…

Buddy and Julie Miller: Forever has Come to an End (Buy Album)

* Speaking of Robert Plant… The nominees for the 51st Annual Grammy Awards were announced last week, and the world of Americana was well represented. The Robert Plant and Alison Krauss collaboration that took home two wins at the Americana Music Awards in September, is now nominated for five Grammys… including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Pop Collaboration with Vocals, Country Collaboration with Vocals, and Contemporary Folk/Americana Album. Competition in the Americana category includes Joan Baez, Ry Cooder, Rodney Crowell, and Emmylou Harris.

* The biggest news for me on the Grammy front, however, is the news that The Steeldrivers have been nominated for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for the song, “Blue Side of the Mountain.” As long-time readers know, Steeldrivers’ lead singer Chris Stapleton is an old high school buddy of mine, and I could not be more thrilled for the success he is having in Nashville.

Friday Top 5: Neko Case

Posted in Neko Case, Top 5 on November 14, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

Has it really been a week already? Sorry for the lack of updates. I’ve been a bit busy, and at times a bit under the weather. Hopefully, I’ll be back up to full speed soon.

I don’t really have a list anywhere of artists that I should write about more in this space. I probably should, but I don’t. If I did… today’s subject would be near the top of the list. If I were being honest, I would probably admit that I haven’t written about Neko Case and her music yet because I’m not sure I have the words to do her justice.

Neko has one of those voices that can transport you from wherever you are to wherever she wants you to be. When she sings of her adopted home in the Pacific Northwest as she does in “Thrice All American,” you can smell the factory dust in the air. When she hits the dance floor as she does in “Honky Tonk Hiccups,” she pulls you out on the floor along with her.

Perhaps the best description of Neko that I have ever read is that she sounds like the ghost of Patsy Cline (I wish I could remember where I got that from). There is a resonance and grandeur to her vocals that you just don’t find too often. She can breathe fire on one track and then soothe your soul with a hushed whisper on the next. There is also an ethereal quality to her voice that can sound ghostly at times… almost as though it isn’t real. But it is real. I had the privilege of seeing Neko perform a few years ago in Lexington (on a night she claimed to have a cold), and her vocal instrument is just as pure live as is it on record.

Neko’s overall sound originally drew heavily on classic country while still keeping a fresh edge that updated the classic sounds. As she progressed from album to album, however, the nostalgia began to melt away and her own unique style was formed. As we progress here from 1997’s The Virginian to 2006’s Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, you’ll be able to hear Neko’s evolution as an artist.

We’ll start with two songs that I’ve already mentioned here: “Honky Tonk Hiccups” from The Virginian and “Thrice All American” from 2000’s Furnace Room Lullaby.

The Virginian is Neko’s debut album and certainly owes a large debt to the early stars of country music. On this disc she covers Ernest Tubb, Loretta Lynn, and The Everly Brothers while also adding a few originals and some less well-known covers. “Honky Tonk Hiccups” is nothing more than a rocking honky tonk number meant to fill the dance floor. Hey… it’s fun, and it does what it’s meant to do.

Neko Case: Honky Tonk Hiccups (Buy Album)

Furnace Room Lullaby found Neko’s sound maturing a bit. The country influence is still strong… but subdued and understated. Neko also starts to lean more upon her own pen on this record. She wrote or cowrote all twelve tracks, including this one about her adopted home of Tacoma, WA (Neko is originally from Virginia).

Neko Case: Thrice All American (Buy Album)

In 2002, Neko released the album that many consider to be her greatest work, Blacklisted. Where The Virginian was made up of mostly cover songs and Furnace Room Lullaby found Neko cowriting most of the songs, Blacklisted finds her going it almost completely alone. Ten of the album’s 13 songs are solo compositions. The finest of those is “Deep Red Bells,” a song about the Green River Killer who murdered nearly 50 women in the Seattle and Tacoma areas in the 1980’s. Neko was a teenage runaway in the Seattle area in the late 80’s while the Green River Killer was still at large. She must have been affected by the killings.

Neko Case: Deep Red Bells (Buy Album)

Neko’s next album was 2004’s live effort The Tigers Have Spoken. On this set, Neko is backed by Canadian group The Sadies as well as previous collaborators Jon Rauhouse on steel guitar and Kelly Hogan on vocals. The album provides a very accurate snapshot of the Neko Case concert experience while mixing a healthy dose of cover songs with a few original tunes. This is one of the originals.

Neko Case: If You Knew (Buy Album)

The Sadies stuck around for 2006’s studio effort Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Some other friends also stopped by for the recording… including Garth Hudson from The Band and Howie Gelb of Giant Sand. Rauhouse and Hogan are once again part of the proceedings as well. With this album you can really see the strides made since her debut. It is textured and layered in a way that none of her previous albums were. Neko has just finished recording her newest album at a studio in Toronto, and I can’t wait to hear what strides she makes with her newest effort. I guess I’ll just have to “Hold On, Hold On” until it’s released.

Neko Case: Hold On, Hold On (Buy Album)