Neko Case: “Hold On, Hold On”
In honor of the fact that I’m seeing her sing in Seattle this weekend, I thought today would be a good day to include a song by the great Neko Case. For those not familiar with her, she has one of the most remarkable voices in music today, and matching that with her excellent songwriting makes her a must-see if she comes to a town near you. Often grouped into the “Alt Country” genre, she isn’t really a country singer, but is certainly influenced by traditional country music. Her voice is simply huge — made even bigger on record by a good amount of reverb, but her voice is resonant and powerful regardless, as I witnessed seeing her live on a previous occasion at the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle. Her songs put it to great use, often dark and haunting, with plenty of open spaces for that voice to fill. In addition, she’s a member of the band, The New Pornographers (and as much as I love that group, couldn’t they have chosen a better name? — if I was trying to choose a band name that was sure NOT to catch on with the public, that would have been high on my list), and her singing is a major component in what makes them so great as well. Nonetheless, Neko is still not a household name, although most who discover her become ardent fans.
Every album of hers is well worth getting, from her 1997 debut, The Virginian, through 2009’s Middle Cyclone, but among the best of those is 2006’s Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (catchy title, no?) — her songwriting is at a peak on the album, and her voice is in typically fine form. Among the best songs on that album is “Hold On, Hold On,” a wide-open, soul-baring song about a failure to find true love — feeling let down in that regard by life, but maybe a bit scared of it, almost relieved when once again it doesn’t work out for her, and filling the emptiness with something else (alcohol or drugs). A twangy guitar echoes throughout, conjuring up a Western vision of the singer riding off once again by herself across the plains alone on her horse, as she leaves another broken chance at love behind. In Neko’s hands, the song isn’t depressing, but rather majestic and noble — with that voice, she could never come across as weak or needy.