About ten or so years ago I got into poetry. Not writing it, but going to poetry slams. It was also around that time that I started paying more attention to the lyrics in the songs I liked. I considered artist like Joni Mitchell as the gold standard in singer-songwriters for along time. Aside from a few others like Jill Scott, Mitchell’s talent seemed to have few peers in the post CD age. Then I heard the music of Neko Case.
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood was her fourth solo studio album and first one after a four year hiatus (as a solo artist). During that time she had been recording with the New Pornographers and featured on projects for others. It was a lucky accident that I even heard Case in the first place (thanks Public Radio). I just so happened to be listening to NPR when I heard the song “Star Witness”. The haunting western meets indie rock style was the perfect backdrop for some of the most beautiful prose set to rock.
In some ways the songs on Fox Confessor Brings the Flood reminded me of a more grown up Michelle Shocked. The two artist seemed to share a similar approach to writing. In the case of Neko, being from Canada could have something to do with it. It seemed ironic that the best Americana styled indie rock of 2008 was being made by someone who wasn’t even American.
Part of what made Fox Confessor Brings the Flood’s richly detailed soundscapes so effective was the co-production of Darryl Neudorf and a host of guest musicians that included Joe Burns and John Convertino from Calexico and members from Sadies, a alt-country super-group Case had worked worked with in the past.
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood is significant because it showcases Case’s maturity as a writer and producer. The kind of whitty lyrics she would be known for started with this album. Her songs covered the subject matter typical of country western artists. Songs about love, relationships and faith are handled with a sublime humor and dark wit.
Case would make many other mini masterpieces after this album (not that the ones before were bad). Fox Confessor Brings the Flood is a great place to start in the Neko case catalog because its the point where she starts to blossom as a producer-singer-songwriter. By any standard that is poetry to my ears.