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Singer and songwriter Neko Case has spent the last few years trying to distance herself in the label she's been given, alternative country. On her fourth studio album titled FOX CONFESSOR BRINGS THE FLOOD, Neko Case branches out with songs about fantasy and tragedy. Tom Moon has this review.

TOM MOON reporting:

Neko Case has the kind of voice that sends you back to an earlier time, a time when country stars like Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn sang about love with great confidence and clarity.

(Soundbite of Neko Case)

Ms. NEKO CASE (Musician): (Singing) Driving home, I see those flooded fields, people don't know what beauty this is. Taking it for granted my whole life since the day I was born.

MOON: On Neko Case's transfixing new CD, that voice is part of an elaborate bait and switch. She knows that when people hear her sing, they can't help but expect sturdy, reliable or old-fashioned tort songs, but she's not writing anything nearly that straightforward.

(Soundbite of Neko Case)

Ms. CASE: (Unintelligible)

MOON: Neko Case uses that voice as a lure to bring listeners inside her surreal, fantastical songs, where the normal becomes grotesque in the blink of an eye. Check out this tune, which was inspired by a historical account of a family gone crazy in the dead of winter. By the last verse, they're burning furniture to stay warm.

(Soundbite of Neko Case)

Ms. CASE: (Singing) He sang nursery rhymes to paralyze the wolves that eddy out the corner of his eyes, but they squared him frozen where he stood in the glow of the furniture piled high for firewood, and the blood runs crazy with giant strides, and the woodsman failed to breach those fangs in time, so they dragged him through the underbrush, wearing three winter coats and a dirty knife.

MOON: There isn't one conventional boy-meets-girl song among the fables and the waltzes on FOX CONFESSOR BRINGS THE FLOOD. Neko Case says she doesn't write those kinds of love songs because she's not sure what love is. Instead, she rhapsodizes over an idealized notion of love.

(Soundbite of Neko Case)

Ms. CASE: (Singing) And nothing comes with music (unintelligible) I don't care if we ever, ever know is I'm holding out for that teenaged feeling.

Mr. MOON: Neko Case's new CD is full of stories, maybe more accurately, little fragments of stories, unfinished vignettes that leave their mysteries hanging in the air. Case says that as she was writing, she didn't follow the stock verse-chorus format. Her rule was just to say her peace and move quickly on. By not tying up every narrative thread, she opens up the songs to all kinds of possible interpretations. They're perpetually unresolved and totally riveting.

(Soundbite of Neko Case)

BLOCK: The CD is FOX CONFESSOR BRINGS THE FLOOD by Neko Case. Our reviewer is Tom Moon, and this Sunday you can hear Neko Case in concert, live from Washington's 930 Club at our web site,

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