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Neko Case & Her Boyfriends

Furnace Room Lullaby – 2000 (Bloodshot)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Neko Case & Her Boyfriends

Perspective is a funny thing. There was a time when a country album as authentic and well-crafted as Neko Case's latest offering would have been lauded as the standard against which other artists could be measured.

Two things are working to Case's detriment here: the current preponderance and popularity of glitzy faux country and Case's own punky roots and branches. Make no mistake: From the weepy opener "Set Out Running," it is clear that Case has made a country album, one that Lynn Anderson or Dolly Parton would be bursting with pride over. Not a note of it rings untrue, even when Case veers slightly back toward a pop vein, particularly on the songs that she shares a co-writing credit with fellow Canadian Ron Sexsmith ("Porchlight" and "We've Never Met"). On "Guided by Wire," Case and the Boyfriends offer up a world where R.E.M. makes country records, while the aforementioned "Porchlight" imagines the same scenario for Sarah McLachlan.

Case's musical accompaniment is a veritable laundry list of great punk players from her days in Vancouver's Maow, but only the attitude and energy come through as her official and defacto Boyfriends check the volume at the studio door. Anyone who takes a chance on Case is going to be rewarded with one of the smokiest and sexiest country albums of this new year.