Neko Case, The High Dials
It's hard to write about Neko Case without admitting my utter, total bias toward the Tahoma-bred bombshell. Really, there are plenty of other angles to start from--the folklore of a girl who began her musical career as a Canadian punk/rockabilly drummer, her recent signing to Anti- Records, the never-ending help she's received from top-notch alt-country acts like Calexico and the Sadies (not to mention the Band's Garth Hudson on her latest, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood)--but she herself is the big deal, the star, for all the qualities that so few famous female musicians exhibit in the mainstream anymore. It's one thing to experience Case on record--her big, inimitable voice is the obvious hook, yet her songwriting has grown in recent years with shades of heartbreak, folk tales and an uncanny eye for poetic detail, making repeat listens (and lyric memorization) damn-near necessary. But in concert, Case turns that respect into adoration. She's a creative one, telling stories and jokes between songs that prove her an extremely attentive, watchful and confident woman (as if the stellar songs on Fox Confessor weren't proof enough). If you just want a pretty face and a nice voice, Country Row serves up plenty of those, but Case's genre-hopping, rough edges, honesty and captivating presence aren't the kinds you'll find on a mainstream assembly line. Show up early for the High Dials, a Brit-poppin' quintet out of Montreal whose jangly love of the Kinks and the Byrds is, somehow, a perfect match for a Case-loving crowd.
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