Neko Case, k.d. lang, Laura Veirs — case/lang/veirs (June 17, 2016)

Neko Case, k.d. lang, Laura Veirs — case/lang/veirs (June 17, 2016)

  Neko Case, k.d. lang, Laura Veirs — case/lang/veirsNeko Case, k.d. lang, Laura Veirs — case/lang/veirs (June 17, 2016)★   Case/lang/veirs have hit upon a sound that is gentle yet resonant.
Neko Case: Honey~voiced alt~country chanteuse who matured into a thoughtful and well~respected singer and songwriter.
Birth name: Neko Richelle Case
Born: September 8, 1970, Alexandria, Virginia, U.S.
Notable instruments: Gibson TG~O tenor guitar
k.d. lang: Eclectic, trailblazing singer/songwriter who began as a throwback country singer in the 1980s, but soon transitioned to adult contemporary crooning.
Birth name: Kathryn Dawn Lang
Born: November 2, 1961 in Consort, Alberta, Canada
★   Lang possesses the vocal range of a mezzo~soprano.
Laura Veirs: Alternative singer/songwriter who has displayed enviable verbal skills to match her intricate arrangements and superb musicianship.
Birth name: Laura Pauline Veirs
Born: October 24, 1973, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Origin: Portland, Oregon
Location: Tacoma, Washington, U.S.Album release:     June 17, 2016
Record Label: Anti–
Duration:     43:10
01 Atomic Number     2:59 
02 Honey and Smoke     3:04 
03 Song for Judee     3:13 
04 Blue Fires     2:58 
05 Delirium     2:46 
06 Greens of June     4:13 
07 Behind the Armory     2:20 
08 Best Kept Secret     3:17 
09 1000 Miles Away     2:58 
10 Supermoon     3:48 
11 I Want to Be Here     2:47 
12 Down     3:02 
13 Why Do We Fight     2:36 
14 Georgia Stars     3:19
★   All tracks written by Neko Case / Laura Veirs / case/lang/veirs / k.d. lang.
★   Ames Asbell String Quartet
★   Stephen Barber String Arrangements
★   Rob Burger Claviola, Keyboards, Piano
★   Ralph Carney Horn
★   Neko Case Producer, Vocals
★   Justin Chase Studio Assistant
★   Michael Finn Engineer, Guitar, Keyboards
★   Anna Fitz Cello
★   Elliott Green Cover Art
★   Jon Hyde Pedal Steel
★   Kyleen King Viola
★   Patti King Violin
★   Glenn Kotche Drums, Percussion
★   k.d. lang Guitar (Acoustic), Producer, Vocals
★   Bob Ludwig Mastering
★   Leigh Mahoney String Quartet
★   Tucker Martine Drums, Engineer, Mixing, Percussion, Producer
★   Sara Nelson String Quartet
★   Jason Quigley Photography
★   Sheila Sachs Graphic Design
★   Tracy Seeger String Quartet
★   Sebastian Steinberg Autoharp, Bass (Electric), Bass (Upright)
★   Laura Veirs Guitar, Producer, Vocals
★   Tim Young Guitar, Guitar (Rhythm)
★↔★   Australian Albums (ARIA)     #12
★↔★   Belgian Albums (Ultratop Flanders)     #110
★↔★   Irish Albums (IRMA)     #83
★↔★   Swiss Albums (Schweizer Hitparade)     #66
★↔★   UK Albums (OCC)     #28
★↔★   US Billboard 200     #33                                      © Neko Case, Photo credit: Samantha Abernethy
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming;  Score: ****
★↔★   When artists of note collaborate on a project, the greatest obstacle is usually balance. The participants may truly respect one another, but as talent, ego, and personality enter the picture, someone is inevitably going to dominate the proceedings, and someone else will end up in the shadows. Neko Case, k.d. lang, and Laura Veirs seem keenly aware of this on the album case/lang/veirs, an album of songs the three singers and songwriters wrote and recorded between 2013 and 2015. And these songs often suggest a conscious effort to make sure everyone gets her share of the spotlight and that everyone’s strengths are put to good use. Oddly enough, one of the consequences of this is that k.d. lang, the strongest vocalist here, doesn’t get as much time at center stage as one might expect, and ultimately she makes less of an impression than her partners. One could argue that lang potentially has the most to lose in this project; while Case and Veirs have healthy followings, lang is the genuine star here, but she hasn’t made an album that’s been as celebrated as her reputation in some time. While this project could have given lang a chance to step out of her comfort zone and try something new, here she’s content to stick to atmospheric midtempo numbers that fit her skill set beautifully, but offer little in the way of surprises (beyond the irritating fake woodwinds on “1000 Miles Away”). However, Case and Veirs give her a chance to sing harmonies with vocalists who approach her own level of skill for a change, an opportunity she seems to relish, and here Case sounds most like the album’s MVP. Case’s cool, introspective indie rock approach dominates the album’s melodies and production, her lead vocals are both naturalistic and dramatically effective, and she harmonizes beautifully with lang and Veirs. And Veirs ends up shining unexpectedly bright on case/lang/veirs; the sweet, homey modesty of her vocal approach is a pleasing complement to the more dramatic stylings of Case and lang, and she contributes a gorgeous uptempo pop tune to the set, “Best Kept Secret,” as well as an affecting homage to Judee Sill. As much as case/lang/veirs strives to be an album that brings together three truly important artists, what it does best is broker a worthy compromise between their individual gifts and musical identities. While case/lang/veirs doesn’t approach the greatness these women have managed on their own albums, it does offer more than a few beautiful moments they could not have achieved on their own. The result is a fascinating, rewarding experiment that deserves to be repeated.
By Sarah Greene, Published Jun 15, 2016 / Score: 9
★↔★   It was k.d. lang who had the crazy (wonderful) idea: Neko Case, Laura Veirs and she should make a record together. It took the songwriting supergroup three years, but here it is — and it actually lives up to expectations.
★↔★   On opener “Atomic Number,” the three singers’ distinct voices swap lines: lang’s rich alto, Veirs’ delicate, breathy yet steady voice and Case’s torchy wail overlapping and combining together, much like the pure elements they’re using as metaphors. Yet this is hardly a template for the record as a whole, which sometimes evokes ‘50s and ‘60s girl groups (the k.d. lang~led “Honey and Smoke,” with its tumbling “I know, I know, I know, I know” call and response vocals is a good example) but more often than not finds Case, lang and Veirs taking turns leading for a song while the other two harmonize. The overall impression is of stylistically fused alternation.
★↔★   The collaboration is arguably Veirs~heavy; she had a hand in the lion’s share of the songwriting, her husband Tucker Martine produced the record and she plays guitar on it. Plus, her 2013 album Warp and Weft may have been a bit of a trial run for this project, as both lang and Case appeared on it.
★↔★   Yet, the record feels quite balanced, and it doesn’t really matter how Case, lang and Veirs got there — they did it. The intricate and delicate “Behind The Armory” and jangly “Delirium” sound like Neko Case songs though all three wrote them, and lang’s jazzy blue ballads (one of which is actually called “Blue Fires”) contribute a whole other dimension to the record. It takes a number of listens for it to sink in how profoundly right~on her vocals are.
★↔★   case/lang/veirs wrote the songs together, but they didn’t get them down in a vacuum: Martine did a typically fantastic job assembling a cast of musicians, and case/lang/veirs — a forward~thinking folk album that’s percussively textured (thanks chiefly to Glenn Kotche, but also Rob Burger on keyboards and piano) with wonderful details like horns that appear for just one song on bouncy, bursting “Best Kept Secret,” and the moody, oboe~like use of Burger’s claviola — sounds absolutely verdant.
★↔★   The strings on case/lang/veirs are so smart, sensitive and integral to the feel of the record that they almost warrant being called the album’s fourth singer. Or, to be more accurate: two more singers, as two different groups of string players were involved, the first fleshing out a handful of the strongest songs, pop~style, and the second, arranged by Stephen Barber and performed by Tosca String Quartet, more expansive and orchestral.
★↔★   Veirs is (or at least was, until now) the least~known member of the brand new group, and I think she’s ripe for discovery. Her “Song For Judee” (which almost didn’t make the cut) and “Best Kept Secret” are both moving tributes — the first for ‘70s songwriter Judee Sill, and the second (the kind of song you wish someone would write about you) for her friend Tim Young, who actually plays guitar on the album.
★↔★   But then, every song is strong. The thing with this collaboration is that, as on all great records, your favourite songs are liable to shift around a little. And what this songwriting team has to offer isn’t just pretty, though it can be that — it’s also pretty profound, passionate and substantial.  ★↔★
By Kitty Empire, Sunday 19 June 2016 08.00 BST / Score: ****

Neko Case, k.d. lang, Laura Veirs — case/lang/veirs (June 17, 2016)


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