Neko Case, Middle Cyclone: Usually when I drive across the state -- an activity I look forward to -- I put Ryan Adams on high rotation. His Jacksonville City Nights and Cold Roses albums always seem appropriate against the backdrop of chair lifts without skiers and the hills of the Palouse. Last weekend I picked up a copy of Neko Case's new one -- a seemingly appropriate replacement -- at the Ellensburg Starbucks. I was disappointed all weekend. Nothing struck me the way "Margaret Vs. Pauline" and "John Saw That Number" did on Fox Confessor. But I'm starting to come around. On Wednesday, I decided the bottom third of the record is great. "The Pharaohs" is a quick classic in which Case tactfully shows off her range and strength. "Don't Forget Me" is a slow burn that I can't get enough of, and is where she rolls out all those pianos she's been collecting and that the writers of this record's story are obsessed with. I'm starting to come around to the rest. Following up Fox is no easy feat, and I must admit to initially discarding a number of my favorite records. See her at The Paramount on June 4.
The 8th Day, "She's Not Just Another Woman." I've listened to this track at least once a day since I heard Greg Vandy spin it on The Roadhouse a couple weeks ago. Holy crap. The first thing I thought of was that I wish that Ray LaMontagne sounded more like this. He's pretty puffy. But I dig his voice, and I think I could be sold if he threw in a little more soul.
Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers. Discovering The 8th Day in 2009 brought home to me how insufficient my appreciation of soul/R&B is. I'm now chipping away at Cooke's catalog via eMusic, and enjoying cuts like "Peace in the Valley," "Wonderful," and "Be With Me Jesus" very much. Looking forward to the rest of the master's works.