Neko Case, k.d. lang, and Laura Veirs have united to form a "supergroup" that's unusual, yet it makes complete sense at the same time. The seeds for the trio, called case/lang/veirs, were planted a few years ago when lang, in a quest to stir her creative juices by working in a group setting, reached out to Case and Veirs via email. She suggested that the three women get together to make music.
Even though they didn’t know each other well, the opportunity to collaborate was too good to pass up. Case and Veirs immediately accepted lang's offer. The songs for the album were written, on and off, over a period of two-and-a-half years. Initially, Veirs and lang did the lion's share of the writing since Case lives in Vermont and had a busy schedule between her solo work and the New Pornographers. That initial stumbling block came at the beginning of the songwriting process. Since lang and Veirs were starting from scratch, they needed to find a mutual place for inspiration. Initial struggles gave way to a creative breakthrough and Case was eventually able to join them for extended periods of writing.
The result was 14 songs that were recorded late last year in Portland, Oregon, where lang and Veirs both live. Tucker Martine, Veirs’ husband and frequent collaborator, produced the bulk of the album with help from Case, lang and Veirs. Musicians recruited for the sessions included Wilco’s drummer Glenn Kotche; composer, keyboardist and former Tin Hat member Rob Burger; bassist Sebastian Steinberg, ex of Soul Coughing; and guitarist Tim Young. Young even serves as the subject of the song “Best Kept Secret.”
“Atomic Number,” which opens case/lang/veirs, quickly demonstrates how the relationship between the three artists is going to work. The album doesn't feature only three-part harmonies but it's a truly collaborative, band effort, with each member of stepping in and out of the spotlight. Occasionally, there's a vibe that suggests each songwriter's individual accomplishments: both “Honey And Smoke” and “1,000 Miles Away” reminded me of songs that could have been on lang’s 2000 album Invincible Summer. “Georgia Stars” is all Veirs and “Delirium,” a fine vehicle for Case, soars on an effortless melody.
Veirs’ harmonies beautifully compliment Case on “Greens Of June” and the string accompaniment on “Best Kept Secret” helps the song soar to sunny heights. “Supermoon," one of the album’s darker songs, is juxtaposed next to the harmony-drenched ballad “I Want To Be Here.” The track "Song for Judee" is a tribute to the singer, songwriter, and cartoonist Judee Sill, who died of a drug overdose in 1979.
Case/lang/veirs more than lives up to the lofty expectations some may have set for this project. It’s a cerebral gem, filled with exquisite songs, strikingly performed by three artists who have combined their distinctive abilities in unique ways and have created something extraordinary. While this album might just be a one-off collaboration, hopefully Case, lang, and Veirs are willing and able to make a second foray as a supergroup.
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