Picks and Pans Review: Furnace Room Lullaby

updated 03/20/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/20/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

Neko Case & Her Boyfriends (Bloodshot)

Album of the week

A former drummer in a Vancouver punk band, Case may never gain admittance to honky-tonk heaven. But she sure sings like one of its angels, with the kind of teary twang and throaty sass that is shared by country's true greats. Unlike Canada's Shania Twain, country's reigning queen of crossover, Case, 29, was actually born in the U.S.A.—below the Mason-Dixon Line in Alexandria, Va.—and she sounds more authentically country than Twain or most of Nashville's other pop wannabes. Recorded in Vancouver and Toronto, Furnace Room Lullaby is equally removed in style from the increasingly homogenized sounds being manufactured in Music City these days. It has an unadorned, swinging-doors-and-a-barstool feel, as if it were cut in the wee hours at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge after a show at the Opry. With backing by a troupe of young musicians playing resonant baritone and steel guitars, fiddle, mandolin and stand-up bass, Case wrote or cowrote all of the CD's dozen tracks. She sashays from the opening song's country lament ("Set Out Running") to defiant road-house rockabilly ("Mood to Burn Bridges," "Whip the Blankets"), lonesome, anguished hymns to lost love ('Torchlight," "We've Never Met," "Twist the Knife") and even a torch song ("No Need to Cry").

Bottom Line: A Case of real country

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