June 24, 2017

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Case calls herself a country girl at heart

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 9/7/2009 (2906 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As the saying goes, one person's trash is another person's treasure.

Take Neko Case, who turned several people's garbage into art.

Neko Case wasn’t brought up in a barn, but she likes recording in one.

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Neko Case wasn’t brought up in a barn, but she likes recording in one.

While scouring Craigslist for a piano, the singer-songwriter noticed people were giving them away for free, so instead of getting one, she got eight and formed her very own piano orchestra for her new album, Middle Cyclone.

"I like recycling so I decided to turn it into an art project," she says over the phone recently from her Vermont farm. "I thought about the orchestra idea and it turned out great. At one time there's seven going on at once, and we multi-tracked it to be 21 pianos with Garth Hudson (of the Band) on lead."

The song, a cover of Harry Nilsson's Don't Forget Me, was recorded in her barn, which was converted into a makeshift studio for the new release. She recorded some of the album in studios in New York City, Toronto and Tucson, but it's the sounds she captured in her own space she seems most enamored with.

"Recording it in the barn had a lot to do with the sound of it," she says. "When you record a track in a hay barn, which is a barn with huge slats, you can't control what sounds are coming in and out, so you have to really let go during the process -- there's going to be winds and birds and frogs, and there's nothing you can do about it."

The external noises contribute to the album's overall feel, especially since nature and animals are two main themes that emerge on her fifth studio effort. Tornados, thunder, lighting, birds, killer whales and insects all make appearances in her lyrics.

"I pretty much think about nature all the time. I grew up that way. Deep down, I'm probably a country girl," says Case, an animal lover who has three greyhounds -- rescued from the Tucson Park Greyhound racetrack -- and a shepherd-chow mix.

The 38-year-old lived in Vermont, 60 kilometres away from her current home, for a time as a child. She was born in Alexandra, Va., but moved around the Northwest a lot, spending time in Tacoma, Wash., before making her way up to Vancouver, where she went to the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design and drummed for female punk band Maow. She released her debut solo album, The Virginian, in 1997 and is also a member of Canadian pop ensemble the New Pornographers.

Her solo albums fall into the roots-noir vein, which is what music fans at the Winnipeg Folk Festival will hear tonight when she headlines the mainstage. Case also appears as part of the Quitters and Dreamers workshop on the Green Ash Stage at 12:45 p.m. Saturday.

She last played the festival in 2006 and recalls it fondly, especially when she met some fellow Ukrainians following her set.

"I used to think I was the only Ukrainian in the world, so after the show to go backstage and have perogies was so exciting. It (the food vendor) was closed but the perogy lady hooked me up."

rob.williams@freepress.mb.ca

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