Live from Austin TX

by: Neko Case

Following the release of her third album Blacklisted, Neko Case's reputation was beginning to expand beyond the boundaries of the alt-country community when she appeared on the celebrated roots music television showcase Austin City Limits, and Live from Austin, TX preserves the full 14-song set Case played for ACL's studio audience on August 9, 2003. Case's accompaniment is simple and spare on this set -- Jon Rauhouse on guitar, banjo and pedal steel, Tom V. Ray on bass and Kelly Hogan on vocal harmonies -- but Case's warm, rich voice is big enough to fill the room all by itself, and her partners provide just the right accents for the sad but resonant songs that dominate this performance. Perhaps Case's greatest virtue is her ability to sing with strength and authority without sounding histrionic, and that gift dominates this album; listen to her take on "Deep Red Bells" and you'll notice that while she gives a passionate performance that's deeply emotional and physically expressive, she has an intuitive sense of when to go full out and when to ease back, and the dynamics of the number are gorgeous, especially with just Rauhouse's banjo and Ray's bass filling out the arrangement. Live from Austin, TX is less ambitious than Case's 2004 live effort The Tigers Have Spoken, in terms of both accompaniment and material, but there's a simplicity and cohesion to this set that's beautiful and satisfying, and anyone who has been impressed with the artistry of her studio work (especially 2006's brilliant Fox Confessor Brings the Flood) will want to hear this concert in which her voice is given free reign. ~ Mark Deming

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