case/lang/veirs is the uncapped and forward-slash divided name for perhaps one of the more resonant and creatively rewarding supergroups to be formed in recent memory.
This trio combines the talents of Laura Veirs, k.d. lang and Neko Case, the three strongest voices in contemporary Americana; each with their own incredible back catalogue, yet here supporting one another graciously by collaborating on songwriting, sharing lead vocals, deferentially providing backing vocals, and together creating an album of incredible sumptuousness and beauty. This self-titled album is truly lovely, and I mean that in the most complimentary manner possible.
In fact it’s too lovely for me, I don’t deserve to be listening to it, let alone judging it with my horribly cynical ears. I instead deserve to be subjected to nothing but ceaseless Skrillex. That’s my fate, not this. Not the stirring, soul-repairing, dark-country beauty of ‘Atomic Number’ with it’s perfectly divvied-up lyrics where each artist brings their own texture and personality to each line, but then coalesces in the chorus to heart-stopping effect. It’s gorgeous. Too gorgeous for me. I’m the type of person who will get up extra early if he knows there isn’t much milk left in the fridge so they can use the last of it before anyone else. I’m basically a monster. I should be forced to listen to nothing but songs with sweary titles written in all-caps that sound like someone driving a combine harvester over a barb wire fence.
Immediately following ‘Atomic Number’ is the sublime ‘Honey and Smoke’, in which k.d. lang takes the lead through a stunning, sultry ballad, with Veirs and Case on doo-wop backing. And by goodness lang sounds so damn good. Carousing, seducing and creating the air of a seedy nightclub just through her single-malt Scotch vocals. It’s too good for me. I’m the kind of person who, when in a festival crowd and a beach-ball comes near him, will just put the ball on the ground and then stand completely still with arms folded. For that sort of behaviour I should only be allowed to listen to Kasabian – no wait – a reformed Hard-Fi’s brand new material.
Later on case/lang/veirs there’s ‘Song for Judee’, where Laura Veirs takes a heartbreaking journey through the life of Judee Sill, a 70s singer-songwriter, who despite being hugely respected by her peers, is still largely unknown. Sill lost her life to a heroin overdose at the age of 35. It’s a gorgeous, low-ley ballad that belies its tragic subject matter. And something I definitely shouldn’t be allowed to listen to, for I am someone whose natural instinct is to give the finger to innocent bystanders on the platform as my train pulls away from the station. Seriously, it’s a real compulsion. I don’t carry through with it though, I’m not a complete sociopath. But still…. it’s there.
‘Greens of June’ has all the pastoral intensity of Fairport Convention, but with a sinister shimmer that takes it into darker, more sensuous territory. It’s a complex track, beautifully orchestrated and dripping with longing. It contains a quiet power that keeps you in its grip and before you know it, you’ve surrendered to it completely. That just sounds too wonderful for me. I’m the sort of person who doesn’t separate their recycling properly. Or, will just recycle any old thing, ignoring the labels on packaging that categorically recommends otherwise. I don’t know the ramifications of my reckless behaviour, nor do I care. I should go to prison.
Then there’s the Bacharach-esque ‘1000 Miles Away’ with lang playing the part of Herb Alpert, pining after a lost love, dreaming of a time when they “watched the stars explode into daybreak”, wrapped up in equal parts vulnerability and lang’s tremendously honeyed vocals. My gosh, k.d. lang is incredible isn’t she? She puts the other shit I’ve been listening to regularly to shame. I could have been listening to k.d. lang records for the last two decades, but no, I’ve been listening to Carly Rae Jepsen instead. I don’t even like her music that much. Seriously. What the hell am I doing with my life? Flushing it down the toilet it seems.
Anyway, there’s 14 tracks of richly textured, joyful stuff on case/lang/veirs. In fact, if I have any criticism it’s that the album is a little too long. Yeah, that’s right. That’s the sort of bitter comment a horrid jerk like me would make… It turns out that I’m the sort of critic who complains that there’s too much good in a piece of art, that there’s such thing as too much beauty, too much talent, too much awesome music. Wow I’m really going through something here. I think I may need some help. But if there’s anything in the world that can bring this inconsiderate sourpuss redemption, it’s this record.