Neko Case gets in a much-deserved headlining show behind 2018's "Hell-On." Info/tix
Neko Case got her start as a drummer in the DIY scene of Vancouver BC, and by the late nineties and early aughts, she had become a creative force in the alt-country world, a realm she quickly outgrew. Her earlier career was more towards the honky-tonk end of the spectrum, garnering comparisons to folks like Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn. Though she dropped the “Neko Case And Her Boyfriends” moniker after her sophomore effort Furnace Room Lullaby, Case is no stranger to collaboration. She was in The Sadies, put out an album with k.d. lang and Laura Veirs a couple years back (released as case/lang/veirs), and still tours with The New Pornographers. Her most recent record, last year’s Hell-On, features a collage of collaborators as well: Mark Langean and Beth Ditto, to name just a couple.
Hell-On tracks like “Last Lion Of Albion,” “Halls Of Sarah,” and “Winnie,” with their soaring vocals, perfectly wrought lyrics, and twangy bent, would be at home on almost any of her past releases, particularly Fox Confessor Brings The Flood and Middle Cyclone. But there are always surprises with case. There are, for instance, surprisingly solid '80s vibes on this record. The instrumentation on “My Uncle’s Navy,” with its flashing guitars and prominent synths, is almost reminiscent of some of the brighter moments of Cocteau Twins’ Heaven Or Las Vegas. This new angle is not gimmicky. On the contrary, it seems the entire thing sprang out fully-formed, cohesive and complete, the new residing comfortably alongside the well-worn. Hell-On makes it clear that, more than 20 years into her solo career, Case is just as bold and uncompromising as ever.
Shannon Shaw may be a little newer to the game but is no less of a powerhouse. The lead singer of doo-wop/garage act Shannon And The Clams released a transcendent solo debut last year on Easy Eye, the Nashville-based label of Dan Auberbach (Black Keys), who also put out the Clams; latest release, Onion. Shannon In Nashville is a straight-up beautiful, dramatic body of work. With her tremendous voice, it’s no stretch to compare her to both classic artists like Aretha Franklin or Leslie Gore and more contemporary acts like Amy Winehouse, but Shaw is in a league of her own. —Katie Hutchinson