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Neko Case

FURNACE ROOM LULLABY • Neko Case and Her Boyfriends

Here's a woman that could give you the softest, fullest, warmest kiss of your life and then slap you right in the face. That's the way she sings, anyhow -- with a tremendous range of colors and of feeling, and a reservoir of strength that gives a man pause and must inspire the hell out of her sisters.

Born a Virginian (and The Virginian is the name of her first CD, on Mint Records), she considers herself Tacoman, and grew up musically in the punk scene of that Northwestern town. Her punk verve shows up as an unparalleled freedom in her delivery, and a stick-it attitude that honors the path of Loretta Lynn and Rose Maddox with a fierce, sexy intelligence.

The CD's remarkably original, and made quite a splash in Alternative, or shall I say, Insurgent Country circles. (Her label, Bloodshot Records in Chicago, is known as the home of Insurgent Country, one of the places Punks go when they're looking for something more, or next.) Magazines like Esquire and Playboy have reviewed her glowingly, she attracts unusual and far reaching praise, well deserved.

Furnace Room Lullaby is loaded with first string Canadian pickers referred to as Her Boyfriends, from Ron Sexsmith to the Good Brothers (Travis and Dallas) from The Sadies, Don Kerr (Rheostatics, Ron Sexsmith) and quite a few more, and the superb instrumental tracks are superseded only by "the voice...part bummer pop grandeur and part honky-tonk wolverine." Neko is a singer that completely takes charge, whether it's a waltz (and there are several) or a breakneck rant.

I can't remember the last time I heard so hip and confident a Country singer. (Yes I do, it was k.d. lang, another amazing Canadian.) Buy Neko's record for wild women of all types and ages and they'll love you for it. And there's more. Reportedly, this outrageous artist with movie star looks has already finished Design School, and is contemplating heading back for a Masters in "some sort of art/physics arena." Whew.  • FG

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