“You’ll never pass beyond the gate if you don’t hear my warning”: Neko Case – Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (2006)

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Americana is contemporary music that incorporates elements of various American roots music styles, including country, roots-rock, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive roots-oriented sound that lives in a world apart from the pure forms of the genres upon which it may draw. While acoustic instruments are often present and vital, Americana also often uses a full electric band.

Americana Music Association

I remember when I first heard Fox Confessor Brings the Flood.  I think the word stunned just about covers it.  I was heavy into her two previous albums and this wasn’t what I expected.  It’s a dark, mysterious, emotional and captivating album filled to the brim with Ukranian folk mythology.  Not to mention the Lynchian imagery.  And it’s over in just over 30 minutes.  Talk about intense.  Did I mention that it’s dark?  Well, it is.  It’s also tender and beautiful.  That big voice that belted out the bruised ‘country sounding alt. country’ on Furnace Room Lullaby and Blacklisted is restrained and, dare I say it, a tad vulnerable.

The country noir of Neko Case’s early albums is now furnished with intricate new sounds, textures, and open space.  It’s still unmistakably Neko, right enough… Neko and the sound of another of my favourite bands (and Case conspirators) The Sadies – Travis and Dallas Good’s guitar twang and sound looming large on a number of tracks.  Anyhoo, despite it all, Neko’s voice … that voice… just cuts through everything.

Margaret vs. Pauline is a haunting opener and I’m still trying to decide whether one of them is dead (I think they might be), Star Witness is jaunty and there’s a music box kinda quality going on there and Case’s delivery is wonderful.

Anyhoo, each of the six tracks on the first side are great, but my favourite is The Sadies co-write Hold On, Hold On. It’s a pretty remarkable tune with a nifty guitar hook and a line that smacks you in the gut.  That line being “the most tender place in my heart is for strangers”.  It’s awfy cynical, but also hopeful.  I dare say we often have more faith in people we haven’t met, cause ultimately they haven’t let us down. Yet.

The second side has the pretty exceptional three track run of Dirty Knife, Lion’s Jaws and Maybe Sparrow.  Picking a favourite from that bunch would be difficult, but the latter is particularly brilliant and features the Garth Hudson (I should mention that Garth Hudson’s all over the album – piano here and organ there… always lovely and subtle).

Dirty Knife has some of my favourite Neko lyrics.  “So suddenly the madness came with its whiskered, wolven, ether pangs” she sings and it’s all swirling and dizzying – madness indeed.

“… Cats are wild… you can’t even touch the tip of their tails”

… the cello as Case sings “the blood runs crazy with giant strides”

… and then her etheral falsetto!  Lordy! 

I also love the closing refrain in Lion’s Jaws (“momentum for the sake of momentum”).

I honestly don’t think there are many better singers out there than Neko. She’s just perfect. Her voice here is better than it had ever been – as expressive as it is powerful.  It’s sad and heavy, but it’s also beautiful and warm.

I also don’t think there are many better songwriters, either – whether she is writing from experience or about other people we can relate. Even when it’s cryptic or mysterious. It’s truth.

It’s easy to say it’s all very David Lynch.  What with the animals and surreal mystery and suchlike.  Sure there’s some other stuff in there (personal stuff and what have you), but the true beauty of this one is what it says to the listener and how it resonates with them.

I mean, folks love to talk about music, books, poetry and movies (including me here) but we don’t need to connect the dots and fill in the blanks.  That would undo the mystery of this one.

… and the title? Well, that’s a really pretty wonderful slice of mythology that fits all this pretty well. The relationships that animals have within the songs and that opening line of Hold On, Hold On and the message of the title track (“It’s not for you to know but for you to weep and wonder when the death of your civilization precedes you”).  Essentially, the person you put your faith in will wreck you. Like the frog and scorpion tale (or the fox and the gingerbread man).

Not just death, but complete annihilation of your confidence and soul.

So aye, there ya go.  Giant strides indeed.  In every sense this is Americana.  A rich and strange brew.  As a myth-interpreter and myth-maker.  Fuck, I’m delighted this is in the collection.

It’s not for you to know but for you to weep and wonder when the death of your civilization proceeds you.

Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

This copy is the 2015 Record Store Day release on red vinyl, which came with a smashin’ themed slipmat. I have no idea how many were pressed, but they didn’t have them over here. I have Aaron over at KMA to thank for finding a copy for me.

25 Comments Add yours

  1. hotfox63 says:

    “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood” with Calexico and Howie Gelb and Garth Hudson from The Band is undoubtedly a high point of her career. I also like “Blacklisted”, it’s a excellent album.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Blacklisted is a real favourite of mine. In fact, I don’t think Neko has a bad album.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. hotfox63 says:

        Yep, everything Neko Case does is OK with me too. She has a wonderful voice and great songs.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. keepsmealive says:

    OMG I love Neko Case, and this record is brilliant. Your write-up is perfect. If this doesn’t send everyone running to get their own copies, I don’t know what will!

    Also, that was six years ago? Damn.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Yup – 6 years. Thanks again, pal!

      Like

      1. keepsmealive says:

        Oh you are most certainly welcome! I am always happy to help!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for rattling my cage. I do not listen to her near enough. “I dont think Neko has a bad album”. I agree. Man do I like the sound of this one. The “twang” is all over it. The help certainly isnt wasted on this one. Great piece J. I think I’ll live with this stuff for a while.
    I know what Im getting Big Earl (son) for a gift. This record!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. J. says:

      This is certainly a great one to live with for a while, CB. I’ve gone through phases of listening to it over and over again. It’s such a warm and mysterious album. Loads of hooks and words to hang onto.

      Hopefully Big Earl digs!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It sounded so good yesterday J. It is one of those records that just keeps getting better for me. I guess I dont pull her out so much because it’s almost like a special treat.
        Yeah Earl likes his music and I’m pretty sure he’d dig this. I’ll pair it up with Youngs new ‘Rust Bucket’

        Liked by 1 person

      2. J. says:

        I know what you mean, I often consider this my favourite of hers. I think every album after this one is equally great, but this one was such a surprise at the time, y’know? It’s a special album.

        (I have Rust Bucket here, but haven’t listened to it yet!)

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m still catching up on all her music. A smorg of goodness.
        Yeah a gave “Bucket” a few listens. I love that Neil and CH style.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. msjadeli says:

    CB recommended I read this. I’m glad I did. Had heard a song or two of hers on pandora radio but not beyond. I just finished up featuring 30 days of female musicians. Will add Neko to the 2022 line-up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Thanks for stopping by! Neko is one of the best and I would definitely recommend exploring her work. Particularly this one.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. msjadeli says:

        You’re welcome and thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. deKE says:

    Dude. I have a lot of catching up to do here! How did I miss this from a great pal of mine. Sorry about that….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Welcome aboard, Deke! No apologies required!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. deKE says:

        Thanks Pal!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Aphoristical says:

    This one is great – I remember listening to it on my little MP3 player while camping on the Queen Charlotte track.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      It’s definitely one of her best. Perfect for camping too, I bet.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Aphoristical says:

        I need to spend more time with some of them, but I’m quite fond of Middle Cyclone.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. J. says:

        Middle Cyclone is great. Definitely one of her best. I really like The Worse Things Get… too. She really has such a strong catalogue.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. msjadeli says:

    Update: I borrowed this from the library and listened to it on a road trip a couple of weeks ago. Very lively album. Good stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. J. says:

      Excellent! It’s a real favourite. If you like what you heard, I would highly recommend her next couple of albums – Middle Cyclone, The Worse Things Get…, Hell-On. Her albums before this are excellent, too – a more alt. country vibe.

      She also did an album with KD Land and Laura Viers which is quite stunning.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. msjadeli says:

        Cool. Will add them to my list. I bet her voice would go great with kd’s voice. Haven’t heard of Viers.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. J. says:

        Veirs is somewhat more folky than Case (and KD). If you find the time and are so inclined, Carbon Glacier, Year of Meteors, and Warp & Weft are worth investigating.

        Like

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