A live album that clocks in at a little more than a half hour? Dude, where’s my copy of Frampton Comes Alive? But even before opening cut “If You Knew” has finished unspooling its twangy luminosity, you get the feeling that this’ll be a filler-free affair. Country queen Case — abetted here by the Sadies and pedal steel maestro Jon Rauhouse — kicks up her heels with all the vim ’n’ vigor of a young Loretta Lynn; soaked in reverb and crackling with ambience, the 10-song set is nothing less than electrifying.
Case actually channels Lynn on a version of “Rated X,” unleashing a set of pipes as wide as Tennessee. A handful of other covers crop up as well. There’s a roots-rock re-envisioning of the Shangri-Las’ “Train From Kansas City” that’s augmented with femme backing vocals (Kelly Hogan and Carolyn Mark) to make the girl-group connection explicit. An uproarious appropriation of “(Walk With) Loretta” — a Velvet Underground-esque rave-up originally by Boston new-wavers the Nervous Eaters — suggests that Case has more than just a little Nuggets in her DNA.
Among Case originals is the wistful title cut that’ll bring tears to your eyes. (“They shot the tiger on his chain/ In field behind the cages/ He walked in circles till he was crazy,” Case sings, her throaty inflections offering only the merest of hints that she may be singing in metaphor — about an old friend, perhaps, or a former paramour?)
Closing things out is a bonus track, the old gospel-folk standard “Wayfaring Stranger” wherein Case, accompanied only by a pair of banjos, conducts a 300-strong roomful of music conference attendees through the choruses. It’s one of those rare, spontaneous moments that remind us how live music can be such a precious commodity.
Fred Mills writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].