My shelves are stuffed with CDs that never get played. This one gets played every few days, sometimes more than once. For me, that says a lot. I usually buy a couple of CDs a week, at least, and I just keep coming back to this one. It's concise, energetic, with twangy wall of sound arrangements. It rocks. It's one of those live albums where you can feel the energy from one end to the other. It reminds me of The Who's Live at Leeds (the original, rather than the reissued longer version) where every song counts and there's no filler.
Neko Case's singing is perfect for the material. She has a great voice and knows how to use it. I don't know how she does it, but it's almost unreal. She has a sweet voice, but not too sweet, more like ginger snaps than honey. There are few singers who do as well as her so consistently. The backup singers do a wonderful job, too. It sounds like they really have got the hang of it.
I'm not a fan of regular country music, but this is like punk country or something. They band seems to have taken the cool parts, and left the bogus parts outside the door. The playing is just right with a mix of electric, acoustic, steel guitars, banjo (but not too much banjo), and plenty of reverb. The rhythm section is good, too, anchoring the generally tight arrangements. There's no excess baggage here in the form of extended solos. There are solos, but they make their point and get out of the way. Eleven songs in about 38 minutes. The band doesn't waste your time.
No excess songs either. All are well chosen, and they all speak to matters of the heart and mind in some way, stuff like love, loss and death, songs of the spirit. Some are what I would call poetic, and some are more literal, some have a little bit of each. All of them are good songs, though. About the last two songs: they've been done a thousand times before. But, Neko and the band still do a decent job and make them listenable.
The sound is excellent. Not studio slick, but LIVE like you are there. The album art is interesting, with some cool drawings
I don't know if they play Neko's stuff on the radio or not, but somehow I doubt it. This CD just rocks too much to attract widespread attention. But this is the real deal, so do yourself a favor. Download the two free songs from this site. If you like them, be assured that these two are representative of the album as a whole.