Friday, April 07, 2006

that teenage feeling

This music biz is crazy:

Last night I saw Martha Wainwright open for Neko Case at Webster Hall. Both were great. Neko really did it right and sounded amazing. That's not the crazy part. The crazy part is that Kelly Hogan was singing backup for Neko.

I first happened upon Neko when I saw her OPEN for Hogan at the Star Bar in Atlanta. My friend (and editor at the time) T Ware assigned me to do a live review of Hogan in, oh, this must have been 2000. Hogan had already gone off to Chicago and was on Bloodshot, but she'd been part of the Atlanta scene and still had a sizeable following. The Star Bar is a little place in Little Five Points that used to be a bank and is known for its Elvis shrine located in the former vault (you can even kneel down to praise The King and give offerings), so it wasn't THAT big of a following, but the place was packed. And when Ms. Case came out and did her thing, I was instantly taken with her.

I had straddled the fence with this "alt-country" stuff. I had hangups since I grew up listening to too much Kenny Rogers and Crystal Gale as a kid (I had memorized "The Gambler" early on and would play the tape over and over again; my sister's personal favorite was "Baby Don't It Make Your Brown Eyes Blue" which we would both sing in our jukebox game and she would wish she had hair down to the floor to make all the men cry). The "alt" didn't seem to absolve the "country" in the genre. I wasn't convinced.

But what Neko was doing seemed different. It was just the venue (where punk bands would play alongside ska groups) but the attitude. She's maintained what she does is NOT country in the least but pure rock 'n' roll. Maybe she's right.

As I looked around Webster Hall and saw all the young faces enraptured by her twang and drawl, I bent over to TrayB and whispered, "Can you believe all these people are listening to what amounts to country music. If it weren't for the fact that she has indie cred, they would never be here."

"Yeah, it's pure Loretta Lynn," he said.

We had a little more inter-change about the fact that she refuses the country moniker, but we know country when we hear it. It doesn't have to be from Nashville, it's somewhere in the stories of the songs. Somewhere in the heartbreak that catches you at the end of that long, beautiful wail. The thing is, it's probably more country because she's outside of that Nashville machine that puts a cowboy hat on someone, ratches up the accent and spits out in a nice neat CMT package. She's making music the old fashioned way: from some deep need inside.

Who cares if it's country or not. It makes me so glad to be hearing her, cowboy hat or not.


At 7:57 AM, Blogger Dee said...

How was M. Wainwright?

Neko's performing at the Variety, soon, but nooo Marta.

A pity. Such a great line-up.

At 7:58 AM, Blogger Jerry said...

Oh yes, I'm a bad bad boy for leaving that out.

Well, she sounded just wonderful and did great songs but, as TrayB said, she's in serious need of a new album.

And I think she may have been high on something...

At 12:32 PM, Blogger Dee said...



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