Pin It
Favorite

Emerald Queen 

The prodigal daughter of the Pacific Northwest comes home again.

click to enlarge art16700.jpg

Neko Case may have been born in Virginia but her cradle was formed by the twin arms of I-5 and State Route 167. Raised in Tacoma, she spent her formative years as a musician along the stretch of highway from Olympia to Vancouver, taking in both the best and the worst that Washington has to offer. The images of the Pacific Northwest she’s committed to song aren’t of vast forests and deep blue reaches; in Case’s repertoire, the timber has long been razed and the Puget Sound is depleted, its marine life shriveled and struggling.

She can be negative, even bitter at times, but she is consistently, unashamedly honest. Her portraits of the Pacific Northwest aren’t pleasant, but they show the region for what it is: towns formed by outcasts greedy for resources to exploit, a ramshackle region with a checkered past (and more than its fair share of serial killers) but still full of pioneering spirit.

Over the last decade, Case has gone from local phenomenon to indie-festival megastar. But after years of shifting and growing as an artist, it’d be a stretch to still call her a country singer (or, at least, just a country singer). But she takes on the genre’s obsession with place and history with aplomb. Her travels across the I-5 corridor are marked on her songs like thumbtacks on a map — you can practically see the neighborhoods she’s lived within, almost down to the exact address.

There’s a local presence on nearly every single album she’s ever made. On Blacklisted’s “Deep Red Bells,” Case explores the fear she felt as a young woman in the area while “Green River Killer” Gary Ridgway was still at large and the impact of Ted Bundy wasn’t too far behind.

Perhaps her most torrid relationship has been with Seattle (in banter during shows, she has referred to the city as a “bad boyfriend”). On her latest release, Middle Cyclone, she offers up “Red Tide,” a sour mix of maritime references and gasoline stench that casts the Emerald City in a particularly damning light, a city of hostility and constant rain (again, honesty is her strong suit).

But for every indictment of the Northwest, there is a spot of hope, shining with the fuzzy nostalgia of youth and autobiography. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood’s “The Needle Has Landed” has Case finding love in the shadow of McChord Air Force Base, out by the trailer parks in “poor Spanaway.” On Furnace Room Lullaby, she crafts what is perhaps the most loving paean to Tacoma ever written: “Thrice All American,” a song full of both nostalgia and scouring starknes, hoping that the homogenization of southern California takes its sweet time in getting there.

The sentiment is clear: We’re not perfect out here, but no one’s coddled us or given us what we never earned — and we’re honest about who we are. We are formed by our surroundings, for good or ill.

Neko Case may no longer live here, but the Pacific Northwest still made her. It’ll always be home — with all the pain and wistful longing that implies.

Neko Case plays with Y La Bamba • Thurs, July 7, at 8 pm • Bing Crosby Theater • $31 • All-ages • metttheater. comticketswest.com • (800) 325- SEAT

Tags:

  • Pin It

Latest in Music

  • Magic in Six Strings
  • Magic in Six Strings

    The story of Sir Richard Bishop, an old guitar and Tangier Sessions
    • Mar 25, 2015
  • Clear Skies Ahead
  • Clear Skies Ahead

    Joe Pug slayed some demons making his new album and his music is better for it
    • Mar 25, 2015
  • Ride It Out
  • Ride It Out

    Rough Congress hasn't played a show in two years, but that doesn't mean they broke up
    • Mar 18, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat
Coeur d'Alene Blues Festival feat. Kenny Andrews

Coeur d'Alene Blues Festival feat. Kenny Andrews @ The Coeur d'Alene Resort

Sun., March 29

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Jeff Echert

  • 'Deerhoof Vs. Evil,' Deerhoof
  • 'Deerhoof Vs. Evil,' Deerhoof

    The working man’s rock music has always been defined by artists like Bruce Springsteen who sing about the 9-to-5ers. But there’s something to be said for Tapes ‘n Tapes, a band workman-like in the way it consistently churns out solid tunes. If there’s such a thing as a bad Tapes ‘n Tapes song, it’s yet to be released.
    • Feb 9, 2011
  • 'Cardinals III / IV,' Ryan Adams
  • 'Cardinals III / IV,' Ryan Adams

    If you're not a Ryan Adams superfan, pass on this album.
    • Jan 12, 2011
  • Destination Unknown
  • Destination Unknown

    Josh Ritter and the journey for its own sake.
    • Nov 3, 2010
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Road Goes On Forever

    Widespread Panic's never-ending tour stops in Spokane for the first time since 1999
    • Mar 11, 2015
  • More »

Top Tags in
Music & Film

Music


Film


Hip-hop


Indie Rock


Review


© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation