Alt.country star Neko Case has earned her cult following; she belts out songs like a burlesque house Patsy Cline, her brash lyrics fading into sentimental phrases as a chorus of drunken cowboys cry in the background. The redhead more than holds her own in this macho world—she owns the space, melting hardened hearts when she croons “Favorite” and “If You Knew.”
On The Tigers Have Spoken (culled from a string of dates in Toronto and Case’s current hometown of Chicago), she’s in perfect form. Her voice has strengthened and deepened—surely a result of her recent tour with Nick Cave—and she inhabits the stage like a natural-born performer. Surprisingly, Case doesn’t take the opportunity to air out old favorites; instead, she unearths Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Soulful Shade of Blue” and the Shangri-La’s “Train From Kansas City.”
Like a siren luring sailors to their doom, Case channels melancholia for Cathy Irwin’s “Hex” and a mournful version of “Wayfaring Stranger.” At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, she rips through the Nervous Eaters’ punkish “Loretta,” before approaching Loretta Lynn’s “Rated X” with equal delight. On the title track, Case combines ghoulishness and glee into a perfect package, while three more originals, including the eerie “Blacklisted,” round out the mix.