Neko Case - Blacklisted
4 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Aug. 26, 2002
By Tony BonyataShe may have started out as a punk rock drummer, but as of the last few years Neko Case is about the closest thing we have to the new voice of Americana music.
On her third album Blacklisted Case digs her spurs deep into the hind-quarters of rootsy country music without sounding affected or nostalgic. With stinging lyrics that lends an air of youthful rebelliousness to her music, this Tacoma, Washington-bred gal, who now calls Chicago her home, has produced the strongest alt-country album of the year.
After leaving home when she was just 15 and heading for Canada, Case began playing drums with several punk bands in Vancouver. It wasn't until 1997, however, that her love for traditional country music came to the forefront on her debut album The Virginian. Since then Case has self-taught herself on the guitar, and contributed to such side projects as the old-timey country music of the Corn Sisters and the more guitar-pop driven music of The New Pornographers, the latter garnering her a Juno Award (the Canadian Grammy) for Best Alternative Album of 2000.
While the overall feeling of Blacklisted is dark, emotive and, at times, even downright creepy, Case's voice - one that possesses the sweet and gentle sounds of morning songbirds, along with the unbridled passion and runaway power of a cattle stampede - is so natural and beautiful that it actually takes us by the hand and pulls us closer to her introspective songs.
Darkness and light both battle for the same corners on the aching number "Look For Me (I'll Be Around)," which features a big, creepy hollow electric guitar from guitarist Dallas Good, while Case's sultry, smokey voice effortlessly floats over the ominous "Ghost Wiring." Even the numbers "Deep Red Bells" and "Pretty Girls," which both have a longing sense of hope begging to break free, possess dark, deep secrets that can't be revealed.
"I am a dying breed, who still believes," the pretty, young songbird sings amid a reflective banjo on "Things That Scare Me." With an album full of such unaffected passion as this, Neko Case's beliefs, along with a stagecoach full of talent, may just help keep this rich form of American music from an early grave.
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