album reviews

Neko Case
The Tigers Have Spoken
Anti/Epitaph (2004)

Too many live albums feel compiled just for the artist.s documentation, complete with too many recycled tracks, too much self-absorbed chatter, and poor sound quality. Neko Case avoids most of those pitfalls on The Tigers Have Spoken, a collection of live recordings culled from several shows in Toronto and Chicago this past spring. The highlight is the interplay between Case's booming howl and the harmonies of Carolyn Mark and Kelly Hogan, from the vocal echoes on Case's outstanding, previously unreleased "If You Knew" to the jubilant choruses of Buffy Sainte-Marie's "Soulful Shade of Blue" and the a cappella interludes on Catherine Irwin's melancholy "Hex."

Tigers falters about halfway through, as two older Case originals ("Blacklisted" and "Favorite") alternate with the album's weakest covers, the Nervous Eaters' growling "Loretta" and Loretta Lynn's "Rated X." The former are not radically different from their studio versions, and on the covers Case buries her most distinctive quality—the warm texture of her voice—beneath shouted melodies and a garble of words.

She regains momentum with a boot-stomping cover of the traditional "This Little Light" and a version of "Wayfaring Stranger" that features a 300-person sing-along chorus. While it doesn't eclipse any of her stellar albums, Tigers nevertheless confirms that Case is as solid in concert as she is in the studio.

-Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: the Baltimore CityPaper: 24 November 2004
.: The Tigers Have Spoken on