I am THRILLED to report that Discogs has come through, and I have finally (FINALLY!), gleefully snagged a copy of a Grail List item that has, honestly, been on the list since before I even started the list in the first place…
What a GREAT 10th anniversary present to me!
Now, LP copies are still out there, but I wanted it on CD. Presumably because I like to do things the hard way… Anyway, the LP is next, if I ever see one! I’ve only ever seen one copy on CD in the wild, many years ago, and even then it was prohibitively priced. Neko’s website stopped selling them, and when I emailed to ask, they said it was unlikely that more were coming anytime soon. Gah!
But now this EP is here, thanks to a record shop in Connecticut, and it is a beautiful copy. YES! Let’s have a listen, shall we?
Andy (a Mike O’Neill tune) is a simple guitar bit with Neko’s haunting vocals over top. Glory! What a lovely way to start this disc off… Up next it’s Neil Young’s Dreaming Man, again a perfect version with Kelly Hogan on backing vocals, and other players adding a tasteful mix of guitars, banjo, ukulele and accordion as well. How does Neko sing it like Neil yet still sound like only herself? Magic!
Sook Yin Lee’s Knock Loud features Neko singing… and singing harmony with herself. This is not the first track here to feature this phenomenon. The electric guitars here are glorious, percussive yet also spacey and beautiful. The tune builds and crashes and abates again. Wow. Make Your Bed (a Neko/Sadies song) features banjo and Hawaiian guiar, Kelly Hogan on backing vocals again, and Andrew Bird on violin! It sounds like one of those old honky tonk heartbreak/angry at the other woman tunes, something Loretta Lynn or Emmylou Harris would’ve sung, and it’s awesome.
Poor Ellen Smith is a public domain track, and the banjos are having a party on this one! Neko’s voice soars like it so very much can soar. Holy crap that was awesome. Great storytelling. In California (a Lisa Marr tune) floats along gorgeously, Neko’s voice the main focus but the guitars the glue that holds it all together. Loved it loved it loved it.
Hank Williams’ Alone And Forsaken starts with the sound of a thunder and rain storm, the guitars ease in, and then Neko lifts us off the ground and we never look back. I’ve used the word haunting already to describe the quality of her singing voice, but it’s the best word for it. Ethereal would also work… Neko wrote Favorite, which rounds out this disc, and this is one we all know well because it later appeared on The Tigers Have Spoken. What a great track! Oh my yes. The version here is simple, but also completely effective.
This was originally a tour-only EP, but it later saw a wider release than just at the gigs. If this was the first Neko you’d ever heard, and that would have been likely for many as this was released in 2001, you’d be an instant fan. The tracks here are pure molten liquid glory, recorded perfectly with a big roomy sound, and I just wanted it to go on forever. Time to hit Play again…
If you ever come across this in the shops, do NOT hesitate. Buy it!
Some liner notes:
This album was recorded in my kitchen by Jon Rauhouse and myself. It’s so much easier than I thought, and you can do it in your underwear!
PROTECTED UNDER INTERNATIONAL COPYRIGHT LAWS. NOT INTENDED FOR MP3 INTERNET DOWNLOADING OR REPRODUCTION OF ANY KIND. THIS IS WHAT WE DO FOR A LIVING. WE HAVE KIDS, BILLS, AND RENT TOO. THANK YOU.
Here is the list of players:
- Andrew Bird – Violin
- Neko Case – Vocals, electric and acoustic tenor guitars, producer, engineer, mixing, photography, drawing, recording
- Mike Hagler – Producer, engineer, mastering
- Kelly Hogan – Vocal harmony
- Andy Hopkins – Guitar (acoustic), guitar (electric)
- Jon Rauhouse – Guitar (acoustic), banjo, engineer, Hawaiian guitar, pedal steel banjo, recording
- Tom Ray – Bass (upright), banjo-ukulele
- Brett Sparks – Vocals
- Chris Von Sneidern – Guitar (12 string acoustic)