Neko Case – Hell-On
The veteran singer-songwriter is on the form of her life on her eighth studio album
Hell-On follows just under two years after case/lang/veirs, Neko Case's superb collaborative album with her friends k.d. lang and Laura Veirs. If anything, it was her last personal full-length that represented her announcing a return of sorts. The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You saw her exorcising demons that came along with an extended period of depression. This time out, it feels as if she’s heading into Hell-On in the midst of a hot creative streak.
That’s not to say that the making of it was smooth sailing for Case. Whilst she was in Sweden applying the finishing touches to the album, her home in Vermont was gutted by fire and it’s testament to her resolve that she refused to be beaten down by it, telling Exclaim! recently that seeing the Houston floods, California forest fires and Puerto Rico hurricane unfold at the same time actually put her own problems into perspective.
Plus, it would’ve been a crying shame if the incident had been allowed to stop Hell-On in its tracks. It’s the most diverse record Case has ever put together, with a steely, assured core that builds on the sound she constructed on The Worse Things Get... and 2009’s Middle Cyclone. Perhaps its key success is in how comfortably collaboration now comes to Case. An unlikely duet with Mark Lanegan, the pulsating seven-minute epic Curse of the I-5 Corridor is amongst the highlights, as is the gorgeous Sleep All Summer, which has her opposite Eric Bachmann of Archers of Loaf.
More than that though, the manner in which she utilises harmonic backing vocals is something she does better than almost anybody else. Lang and Veirs both appear but the unsung hero is Kelly Hogan, who tours with both Case and The Decemberists. It’s a richly realised record and one that is as powerful a statement in support of Case’s measured musical expertise as it is her long-established prowess as a lyric writer.
Listen to: Curse of the I-5 Corridor, Sleep All Summer