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Alt-country songbird turns
to nature for inspiration

Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
(Anti- Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Mar. 24, 2009
Neko Case

Review by Tony Bonyata

With a penchant for writing thought-provoking lyrics wrapped around ghostly Americana roots-music and led by an angelic voice sent from the heavens, Neko Case has been poised as the great hope of both alternative country and female singer-songwriters.

While she recorded her first two solo efforts, The Virginian and Furnace Room Lullaby (along with her backing band "Boyfriends") in the latter part of the '90s, it wasn't until she joined the ranks of Canadian indie-popsters The New Pornographers in 2000 for their fantastic debut, Mass Romantic, that a real buzz began swirling around her. But it was her first billed solo effort sans her Boyfriends, Blacklisted, a beautiful, harrowing, and haunting collection of timeless modern roots-music, that would define the direction of her solo musical path.

Following the huge success of 2006's Fox Confessor Brings The Flood, which not only climbed to the #4 spot on Billboard's Top Independent Albums, but also made an impressive mark on their Top 200 chart at the #54 spot, Case has just unleashed her fifth studio album, Middle Cyclone. The record follows subject matters tied to nature, such as tornadoes (the rootsy-pop of the opening track "This Tornado Loves You," as well as the album's title track), the ocean's tides ("Red Tide") and animals, such as whales ("People Got a Lotta Nerve"), birds on "Magpie To The Morning" and on "I'm An Animal" where Case declares on this standout track, "I'm an animal, you're an animal too." The singer even closes the album with 31 minutes of nothing more than crickets chirping, creating a peaceful and serene ambient escape on the track "Marais la nuit."

Case has recruited a number of talented friends such as M. Ward and members from Los Lobos, Calexico, The New Pornographers, The Sadies and Lilys to help flesh out the arrangements. A uniquiely gift- songwriter, the 38 year-old singer also turns in a strong version of songsmith Harry Nilsson's "Don't Forget Me," along with a cover of '70s pop rockers Sparks' "Never Turn Your Back On Mother Earth," a number which fits in thematically, but compositionally sticks out like a sore thumb with its schmaltzy chorus.

While staying within the boundaries she's already created for herself, Neko Case has, nonetheless, produced yet another fine album in a remarkable canon of greatness. And like any other cyclone, you'll be swept away by it.

Related articles:

Neko Case - Concert review - Madison, WI - June 2005
Indigo Girls / Neko Case - Concert review - Chicago, IL - Feb. 2003
Neko Case - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - Oct. 2002
The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema - Album review
The New Pornographers - Electric Version - Album review
Neko Case - Blacklisted - Album review

Watch Neko Case - Middle Cyclone EPK

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