Monday, August 20, 2012


Neko Case shed her boyfriends for this devastatingly beautiful country noir landmark.  'Blacklisted' was recorded at Wavelab Studios in Tucson, Arizona and produced, engineered, and mixed by Darryl Neudorf and Craig Schumacher.  The guest musicians at the sessions included Joey Burns on acoustic, electric, & tenor guitars, accordion, upright & electric bass, cello, vibraphone, and pump organ; Brian Connelly on guitar; John Convertino on drums; Howe Gelb on organ, piano, and wurlitzer; Dallas Good on acoustic, electric, 12 string, & baritone guitars; Kelly Hogan on background vocals; Mary Margaret O'Hara on background vocals and vocal harmony; Jon Rauhouse on banjo, pedal steel, and Hawaiian guitar; and Tom V. Ray on upright bass.  Arrangements were also done by Rauhouse and Ray.  

Case had recorded the 'Canadian Amp' mini album on her own during the tour for 'Furnace Room Lullaby'.  Because of that experience, she says:  "I went into the studio feeling more confident to record 'Blacklisted', but I was also in an environment with people I knew I’d feel comfortable with. It helped a bit though...I knew who I wanted to play on it, but I didn’t know how it was going to sound. I had an idea of what I wanted, yes. It’s a bit an abstract concept I suppose...I wanted to do it analog, and I had already recorded with Craig Schumacher, John, Joe, and Howe because of our other recordings we haven’t yet released. It was really gratifying and everything worked really nicely...It’s kind of intimate, but it’s spacious at the same time. It’s giving the illusion of spaciousness. People tend to think it’s sparse. But actually there’s a lot going on all the time. To make it more spacious, you take all the music and make it much quieter than the vocals. You put the vocals way up and use a bit of reverb. I did that because I really admire old recordings by people like Owen Bradley. I admire old recordings, like those old Platters records, stuff where they would use a giant orchestra and make it subservient to the vocal. This creates this remarkable tension, that gives it the spaciousness it has. And using the analog format helps that too. I think tape hiss is almost atmosphere in itself...It’s certainly not as immediate as the last one. It’s kind of a slow-burner."

'Things That Scare Me'

Case says: "I live in a country that holds up values as something that’s branded on Americans and people don’t really live by them. And the so called 'American Dream' is a pretty all-consuming monster. People can’t step back from it enough to see that they need to calm down a little bit and focus on much smaller things. I don’t know, it’s just a little thing that means a lot of big things."

According to Case, 'Deep Red Bells' "has a lot to do with growing up in Washington state during the time when the Green River Killer was active, when I was in junior high. It's frightening. It has a lot to do with when you're a kid and you see that stuff on TV all the time---the news definitely made the distinction that these women were prostitutes, in fact they didn't talk about them like they were women much at all, which made me feel really bad for the women. Myself and many, many other young women that I knew at the time were very, very scared of the Green River Killer. It was very much a part of our psyche, and it still is, when you grow up with that kind of stuff. Washington had a lot of serial killers---a lot. The whole time I was growing up, there was Ted Bundy, or the guy in Spokane. And when I was in Vancouver, they finally caught the guy---all these prostitutes were disappearing from downtown, and nobody gave a shit about it. Actually, the people of Vancouver gave a shit about it, but the local government didn't, because a lot of them were prostitutes, some of them were drug addicts, so they figured they were lost anyway. I actually think there's a civil suit in Vancouver---you might want to check on the facts on that---because they could have figured out who this guy was a long time ago, and they didn't bother to do it. The government would make up these wild claims---'Well, we might think it might be a white slavery ring', blamed it on Asian gangs---it was really gross. Same thing with the Green River Killer: they knew who he was for a long time, but they couldn't bring him in on technicalities. I'm sure that it upset the people who had been looking for him that long just as much as the parents of the people he had killed. These women's lives just never seemed that important; they weren't really made that important on the news. It was all about fear. I guess the song is basically me just thinking, 'What are their lives? What would their families do?'"

Case explains the inspiration for 'Lady Pilot':  "I was getting on a plane going to Tuscon, Arizona, to do some recording. I was really happy, and I thought, 'My life is so good, this is gonna be the part when the plane crashes.' I was feeling ultra-superstitious. And then I got on the plane, and the pilot was a woman, and she was wearing a skirt, she had red hair, and she was foxy. And I thought, 'Oh, cool, I've got a lady pilot. I'm not gonna die!'"

Case says 'Stinging Velvet' "is just a sort of love song about missing the rain."

'I Missed the Point'

Case says the title of the album doesn't have anything to do with her only performance at the Grand Ole Opry where she took off her shirt and kept playing in her brassiere because it was so hot:  "I had heatstroke. People would love it to be a 'fuck you' punk thing. But it was actually a physical ailment thing...'Blacklisted' is just a name of a song. It encapsulated the theme of the album. It’s an evocative word. The Grand Ole Opry thing has been overblown. I didn’t tell the Opry to fuck off. There was a misunderstanding. It has happened to Dolly Parton, Hank Williams, and Johnny Cash, I think. Some of the people who work there were great, treated us nice, and showed us stuff we’d never see. Like being backstage and seeing Jimmy Dickens walk by and say 'how’s it going.'"

'I Wish I Was the Moon'

full album:

All songs written by Case, except where noted.

"Things That Scare Me" (Case, Tom Ray) – 2:30
"Deep Red Bells" – 4:03
"Outro with Bees" – 1:35
"Lady Pilot" – 2:26
"Tightly" – 2:16
"Look for Me (I'll Be Around)" (Sylvia Dee, Guy Wood) – 3:21
"Stinging Velvet" – 2:55
"Pretty Girls" – 3:25
"I Missed the Point" – 1:52
"Blacklisted" – 2:22
"I Wish I Was the Moon" – 3:34
"Runnin' Out of Fools" (Richard Ahlert, Kay Rogers) – 3:05
"Ghost Wiring" – 3:54
"Outro with Bees (Reprise)"  2:24

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