A Bird in Itself: On Neko Case’s “That’s Who I Am”
I’m working with the doors open on a rare spring day, radio low so I can hear the birds sing outside, and damn, there it is. Neko Case‘s voice is a bird in itself. Not like a robin’s or a cardinal where a whole tribe of birds call a similar song. No one has Neko’s voice. No, her voice drills through your heart. And her voice is more than her song, it’s her life and her fierceness that resonate as well. Neko’s love of animals and underdogs and women and people who live in the margins of American culture is well documented. When she sings or speaks (or tweets) it is with certainty.
“That’s Who I Am” is more country than we’ve heard her sing in a minute. I’m okay with that. The song features the familiar, seemingly strong male-crushing woman with a suggestion of personal doubt hidden behind the power. Sort of a particular Neko trope. Satisfying nonetheless. After the first 45 seconds you already know the song, it has a familiarity and a simple jangling piano accompaniment. What keeps you there is that voice that will throttle your soul on a warm spring day. Taunting and tight and lilting and strong. Yes, I’m a Fan Girl, but listen for yourself. (And, if you disagree there is a comment section below, ya know.)
Less interesting to me (but maybe not to you) is that this is from the forthcoming movie Ghost Brothers of Darkland County with a soundtrack supervised by T-Bone Burnett, music written by John Mellencamp, and a libretto by Stephen King (wrap your head around that), described as “a Southern gothic supernatural musical.” The soundtrack boasts some heavy hitters such as Elvis Costello, Kris Kristofferson, Rosanne Cash and, of course, Neko Case.