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Neko Case

Blacklisted – 2002 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Bill Silvers

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CDs by Neko Case

Neko Case is blessed with a dynamic clarion of a voice- emotionally powerful, yet expressing a beguiling openness and vulnerability. On this, her third full-length record, she's left the scattershot variety of her debut, "The Virginian" and the torch and twang-rock of her follow-up "Furnace Room Lullaby" behind for darker territory.

The new record is dark, forbidding and dread-filled. Case's writing, arguably more effective than ever (all but two songs are her own), sets the mood that's then hammered home by the reverb-laden vocals, set against spaghetti-westernish landscapes that frame the songs to good, if too-often indistinct effect. A few songs stand out against the stark, nighttime-in-the-desert background - the opening "Things That Scare Me," "Stinging Velvet," the most uptempo and familiar-sounding song here, and most notably, the stunning cover of "Running Out Of Fools," where the power of Case's vocal is allowed to take center stage.

This is a recording that will compel many with its effective evocation of darker, more emotionally challenging themes, but its density and cheerlessness, however well-rendered, aren't a casual entertainment.