First up, I gotnothing againstJakob Dylan. He’s written some verydecent songs. Also, one cannot argue with genetics — man’s got a sweet voice that’s weathered smoothly over time, solid musical instincts, and not for nothing, he’s awful nice to look at. (see: “dyke, not blind”)
When I read thatT-Bone Burnett, Academy Award winner, definitely on the short list of greatest producer/songwriter/performer genius guys around, had signed on to produce a second album with Dylan, I thought it sounded like a cool idea but didn’t think much more about it. What got my attention was when I saw they wanted not onlyNeko Case but powerhouse sidekickKelly Hogan on 8 of the 10 tracks. That meant I’d most likely buy said album, Women & Country, or at least 8 tracks of it.
Then came the announcement that “Jakob Dylan and Three Legs, with Neko Case and Kelly Hogan,” would be all overSXSW, just down the road from me this week, including some of the free no-wristband-required events. I was tempted to go at first, even more when I found out that “Three Legs” was actually the rest of Case’s band, every one of them kickass players, especially Paul Rigby (on guitar below). Case’s last two albums have been in high rotation in the “fabric of my life” playlist this last year, but I have yet to see a live performance.
So, tempted, yes — my favorite ingredients were there — but frustratingly, not in theproportions I wanted:
To listen to Neko Case recorded is an
incredible experience, but to actually watch her sing is breathtaking.
While the audience (and sometimes the rest of the band) gasps in awe,
struggling to draw enough air to yell into a friend’s ear “can you
believe her voice”?!, Neko simply opens her mouth and lets loose an
auditory assault. In a good way. The English language needs a new verb
to describe the manner in which Neko produces sound. It is not
singing. It is some peculiar form of channeling, in which her vocal
chords become conduit for a blend of Linda Ronstadt’s, Patsy Cline’s and
Ozzy Osbourne’s voices, driven through a Marshall amp with all the
knobs turned to 10.
And as if that voice isn’t enough, add in “secret assassin” Kelly Hogan, described by Case as “the best singer I know.” Two enormous voices … used here as background, as accent. Splashed on like aftershave. And it’s gorgeous — in my headphones. Badass chef T-Bone Burnett serves up a mouthwateringappetizer. Case is the caviar, Hogan’s the crème
fraîche, we’ll call the band smoked salmon, and Jakob Dylan is the
I love musical collaborations, have nothing against cross-marketing, but when it comes to the billing for alive performance, I have a different expectation of that word “with,” so my expectations and I stayed home. Many of those who did stand in line for a few hours to see Jakob Dylanwith Neko Case ended up underwhelmed. Even middle-of-the-roadEntertainment Weekly found Case “sadly underused,” describing the shows as “disappointingly snoozy.” On Twitter, of the many “WTF?” livetweets I saw, this was my favorite:
“Seeing Neko Case sing backup vocals for Jakob Dylan is
like watching Jimi Hendricks play rhythm guitar for Ringo Starr.”
Jakob Dylan is a nice enough pancake, and talented. I wish him the best, I just don’t find him the most interesting thing on the plate:
You can download Dylan’s new singleNothing But the Whole Wide World for freehere. And, btw, the New Pornographers just announcedtour dates for their about-to-be released albumTogether.