Blacklisted

Anyone with any kind of ear for music need listen to a Neko Case album only once to recognize that the Canadian singer/songwriter has a Heaven-sent voice.

Anyone with any kind of ear for music need listen to a Neko Case album only once to recognize that the Canadian singer/songwriter has a Heaven-sent voice. But while she's clearly gifted, Case's strong, soul-powered country vocals don't make an album on their own, as this set (her third full-length for Bloodshot) attests. While Case's natural talent automatically lifts Blacklisted above so many albums that have and will be released this year, too often the playing here seems repetitive and just dull when compared to 2000's stunning Furnace Room Lullaby. There's some nice moments, including Case's lung-emptying chorus in "Deep Red Bells"—which also boasts the terrific lines "Looks a lot like engine oil/And tastes like being poor and small/And popsicles in summer"—and her spooky cover of "Runnin' Out of Fools." While it's always great to have another Neko Case record, this isn't the follow-up her fans have been expecting.—WO