Casey Neill : A bridge to the Highlands By Jim Desmond
Portland may have been Casey Neill’s home for the past two years, but the heart of his new, career-defining record, Brooklyn Bridge, belongs to New York City.
“Some of it is my history as a kid there,” Neill says. “And some of it is my recent history there. The first gigs I did in New York were all in the Lower East Side in the ’90s when it was all sort of squatters and community gardens, rent-style scenarios, and pirate radio. I have some nostalgia for all that. Some of it, like [the song] ‘The Holy Land’, is the old New York, which is something I’m just fascinated by — the whole Gangs Of New York, Tammany Hall era.
“There’s an overarching thing I wanted to do, which is kind of a ridiculous thing to say, but the way that [Walt Whitman's] ‘Leaves Of Grass’ follows these pictures of the city and just shows the teeming masses of all kinds of people shoved in together into one teeny little island — I wanted this record to capture some of that.”
The deepest emotional connection of the record, however, cuts far deeper. Brooklyn Bridge — which was recorded mostly in New York and Rhode Island with an all star cast of musicians (including Eric Ambel, John Wesley Harding and Erin McKeown) — was produced by Johnny Cunningham, a famed Scottish fiddler. The record was nearly done when Cunningham died of a heart attack at age 46 in December 2003.
Neill befriended Cunningham in the mid-’90s and convinced him to produce Skree (1999), a record Neill made for the folk label Appleseed. “I first got into Irish music because I loved the gut-wrenching ballads,” Neill says, “but I really liked the ferocious fiddle thing that Johnny brought to Scottish music and that a lot of Irish bands had.”
After Cunningham’s death, Neill became near-obsessed with finishing Brooklyn Bridge in a way that would do Cunningham proud. He returned to Portland and lined up an impressive cast that included members of the Decemberists to record a few new songs. The album took on more of a rock ‘n’ roll feel, a direction Cunningham himself had been promoting; Eric Ambel says that when he showed up at the studio for the initial New York sessions, “Johnny and Casey were pretty much telling me to go ahead and play the big nasty guitar.”
Brooklyn Bridge moves comfortably between stirring ballads, midtempo Americana songs, Celtic influences and rave-up rockers. It’s held together by remarkably good songwriting. The emotional centerpiece is “King Neptune”, Neill’s posthumous ode to Cunningham, its title recalling a costume Cunningham wore in a Coney Island parade. “With your legendary charm/And a girl on your arm/Your heart forever in the Highlands,” Neil sings.
Writing and recording the song, finishing the record without Cunningham, then finding a label and getting the record out were far more difficult than cathartic, Neill says. But he was all smiles at his record-release show in mid-May at a large Portland theater, backed by his top-flight band the Norway Rats, with friends from the Decemberists sitting in.
So how did it feel to see the record finally released? “The first day or two it was sort of anti-climatic somehow,” Neill says. “It was like, OK, here it is, it’s finally done. Part of that is also the notion of a CD as a package that you can actually hold in your hand is now devalued by the state of the industry. But aside from all that, about three days later it began to sink in and my excitement actually grew. Now that we’re actually out on the road playing it, watching people walk away with the CD is really great."
Casey Neill Releases Album of Rare Sophistication
by Don Campbell
See link here
When we last left our wandering troubadour, Casey Neill had just released one of the strongest recordings ever to come out of Portland. His 2007 "Brooklyn Bridge," as we wrote then, "marries the heartstring-intimacy of folk music to the raw intensity and power of punk with electric results. Imagine Pete Seeger grabbing a downed power line."
For the album, recorded here and in New York, Neill used a host of musicians and genre-hopped among his major influences: country, punk, Irish music, folk songs and tender ballads.
Since that record, Neill has rooted himself in the Northwest and has steadily played his music with a cadre of some of Portland's finer folk and rock musicians, forming a strong bond of friendship and family. He's fused their talents with his erudite, literate songs, honing that music on the road and fully living the life he's chosen.
What has emerged is "Goodbye to the Rank and File," an album of rare sophistication, emotional depth and precious performance. All of Neill's musical influences are still there, but he uses them more as touch points for an album that is not only a paean to his love of the Northwest, but is also thematically built around a strong nostalgia for the places he's been, the people's he's known and the things he's done.
"'Brooklyn Bridge' was about New York," he says. "This one is about playing music and being part of the music scene in the Northwest for a long time. It's about the people I've been in the trenches with. We've all been in numerous other bands over the years. Some of these people have had roaring successes, but everyone's still doing the same thing."
Nostalgia, says Neill, is an interesting thing. "Some writer, I think it was Wendell Berry, said nostalgia is not necessarily a bad thing," he offers. "The thing to remember about nostalgia is to look back on those moments in your life, when things felt epic, or terrible and intense. It reminds you to look at life years later. Or if you don't have those feelings, how do you get them back into your life?"
For Neill, it is this album. The 12 songs tug at the heart and rollick the soul. At times tender and others strident, for him the album is more about stubbornness, and part of that is choosing the life of a musician.
"I don't feel like an old man by any means," he says, "but you see a few rounds of things passing through. We've all been at it a really long time, and we're not giving up any time soon, regardless if it translates into success. It's how I spend my life, that's what I'm going to do. People say grow up some day. No, this is my work, for better or worse."
See link here
Casey Neill, He's Got Friends in Lo-Fi Places by Jay Horton April 30th 2010
[SINGER-SONGWRITER] A songwriter’s songwriter, Casey Neill has an unpretentious intelligence and depth of focus bleeding through his subtly lyrical tunecraft, which has long attracted the attentions of an array of admirers. Even while Neill was gigging coffeehouses and hawking demos as post-collegiate Olympia troubadour, his version of a Pete Seeger classic found its way on to a tribute album also featuring Billy Bragg and Bruce Springsteen. And, on one shared train trip through upstate New York, he performed a railway-station busking session on Seeger’s insistence.
The semiannual appearances over the past five years of Pogues cover band KMRIA—led by Neill and a who’s who of instrumentally gifted/globally name-checked Northwest musicians, most of whom make appearances on Neill’s forthcoming release, Goodbye to the Rank and File—have been embraced by original Pogue James Fearnley.
Neill’s voice—narrative voice as well as the manful, knowingly rustic, Boss-in-pocket timbre—draws the oddest of acolytes. “Somewhere in the ’90s,” Neill recalls, “I was on a bill with Jello Biafra for an activist thing, and he said, ‘Yeah, I have this great love for folk music.’ Which was pretty funny, but he would talk about how much of it was like punk rock. And then he asked me to tour with him.”
It was a fitting pairing: Despite Neill’s sizable presence within the acoustic community, there’s always been a punkish edge to his music—one of the songs originally recorded for his newest album, he says, wound up sounding too much like the Dead Kennedys for inclusion. But with production by local songwriter Ezra Holbrook (a longtime member of Neill’s band, the Norway Rats), Goodbye to the Rank and File effectively smoothes out the more eclectic flourishes of Neill’s muse that sometimes baffled radio programmers—its propulsive roots planted besides hothouse numbers transplanted from Celtic or Appalachian climes.
Neill’s last album, 2007’s Brooklyn Bridge, drew upon an extended stay in New York City following the urgings of his soon-retiring father and his longtime collaborator/Scottish folk legend Johnny Cunningham. “At one point, Johnny called me up and said, ‘Do you have a girlfriend?’ No. ‘Do you have a cat?’ No. ‘So, get your ass to New York and lets play some music!’”
Rank and File is as intrinsically Portland as Brooklyn Bridge was New York. Blending together the distinct tints of Neill’s extended palate towards a richer and wholly unique vision, the disc is a collection of masterful portraits, remembrances of Northwestern people and places converging and fracturing.
As a recording, Rank and File signals an arrival at a destination point, bringing together the full Norway Rats lineup: Little Sue (vocals, acoustic guitar), Chet Lyster (guitar), Ezra Holbrook (drums), Hanz Araki (vocals, flute), Jesse Emerson (bass) and Jenny Conlee (piano, accordion). “We have a lot of shared history,” Neill says. “Everyone has been in the trenches and in the Northwest music scene, some people are in huge bands and some people are slogging in bars and we’re all kind of together just doing it. Some of that is just built into the songs.”
Casey Neill's Pacific Trail
By Israel Bayer, Staff writer
Casey Neill’s music and songwriting, like so many great storytellers before him, tells the tale of the haunted working poet in search of something that lay both far and away and within each of us, both beautiful and tragic.
Neill, a humble and detailed man, along with an all-star group of musicians called the Norway Rats, is set to release “Goodbye to the Rank and File” with the local label and online music magazine In Music We Trust.
“Goodbye to the Rank and File” is Neill’s second album with the Norway Rats, a band currently made up of some of Portland’s best-known musicians, including Jenny Conlee with the Decemberists, and Little Sue, a singer and songwriter and country music icon. It will be Neill’s fifth full-length album.
The music that accompanies Neill’s stories blends many genres, including traditional Irish, punk, folk, and rock-n-roll. On “Goodbye to the Rank and File, Neill says the sound is more nostalgic, harnessing an old industrial rock-n-roll feel, which is fitting for the stories the album has to tell.
“This album in many ways is about the people that you lose along the way, or the people that disappear in one direction or another in all of our lives,” Neill says. “It really has this sense of we’re all still here, years on. We’ve all done and continue to do our best.”
Anchoring the album, says Neill, is the song “Guttered.”
“It’s about being engaged and working to make the world a better place for a long period of time,” Neill says. “He or she finds themselves in 2010, and the world has changed dramatically in a short time period, in lots of good ways and lots of bad ways. And how one internalized adapting to the world around them. At different times in our lives we have legs underneath us and are doing great things, and other times you’re struggling to just get through and lost. I think this album touches on all of those things. It’s really about perseverance.”
smoking lucky strikes in a snow covered graveyard
you watch your breath spill into the air
the night gives no shelter & the wind it cuts through
you and you look up at the sky & swear
at the winter stars and their indifference to you
dizzy from the drink and that shaky homegrown
you pull your wool hat over your eyes and lean against a headstone
ain’t it like that when you’re guttered & there is no where to go
ain’t it like that when you’re guttered you walk the graveyard in the snow
Raised off the banks of the deep New Haven harbor in Connecticut, awash in the maritime cultures of New York City— the singer and songwriter grew up on the edge of an American culture delivered by the sea.
At age 13, three years after he picked up his first guitar, Neill found himself like so many others in America, a latchkey kid with an unknown future laid out before him.
Raised between his mother, an art historian in New Haven, and his father, who worked at South Street Seaport Museum in New York City — Neill’s anthropologic songwriting was influenced by both the historical and the working class cultures that surrounded him.
“I would hang out in the middle of the night at a fish market,” he says. “All the fishermen would come in from all up and down the Atlantic seaboard, and as a teenager I would watch all these guys work all night long.”
His younger years shaped Neill’s love for working people, maritime culture and travel, all of which would later spill out of his being in the form of music and song.
Neill’s artistry is in capturing the often untold, yet remarkable stories of ordinary human beings. That was the case with George, a 74-year old Greek immigrant who in 2004 was the last man left inhabiting a flophouse in the Bowery in New York City. After reading about George’s battle in an article by New York Times writer Dan Barry, Neill wrote “Stevenson Hotel,” named for the building George called home.
cubicle number 40
chicken wire on the ceiling
the stevenson hotel
and George is the last man standing
he’s been here 30 years
in this flophouse up the stairs
he is not leaving, oh no
he is not leaving
cubicle number 40
all the others are empty
4 feet by 8 feet
the walls all vomit green
and George says “they’re all gone.
The Professor and Jullian
who used to beat me”.
he’s been here so long
damned if he’s leaving, oh no
he is not leaving
and the Bowery boys today are just the elite on parade
and the landlords and the lawyers know there’s money to be made
from an old hotel where the rooms used to go for 5 bucks a day
a cool 1.2 Million is the price that would be paid …
“I wrote the original story in 2004 about George,” says Dan Barry, speaking from New York. “Six or seven months ago, Casey sent me a note along with the song. I didn’t know Casey, and I was flattered. He used some language from the column, and created this very haunted song. It got me thinking. I’ve been a reporter for 25 years, and you’re always moving on. This time, I wanted to go back and see what had happened to George.
The project turned into a night at the hotel for Barry, and a report that delved into the building’s storied past, all the way to its last resident.
“Casey rang my bell, and piqued my interest to go back for that story with the song,” says Barry. “It’s beautiful and haunting.”
What Barry found was a building in the Bowery that over the past 150 years had been a hotel that catered to Asian tourists, a music hall, a restaurant, and eventually a flophouse — each incarnation with a story to tell.
In March, the New York Times published the article by Barry titled “On the Bow’ry,” which explored the many faces of the building and its inhabitants. (Stevenson Hotel and a slide-show with Barry’s reporting is featured on the New York Times Web site.) George had been forced by the State Supreme Court to vacate the building. In the ruling, George was granted $80,000 and was sent back to Greece. Within a few months, in a simple twist of fate, George was dead.
A similar tragic tale is told in Neill’s song “Sisters Of The Road” on the 2005 recording, “Memory Against Forgetting.” Here in the second verse Neill sings:
Trina fell for a punk named Silver from Southern Illinois
who’d been living on the streets of the West Coast since he was a 13-year-old boy
he knew every free meal in Stumptown, every dry place to keep warm
and he’d take her to ‘em when the darkness fell and they’d lie in each others arms
Silver hustled now and again in the backs of drunk men’s cars
scars ran up and down his arms like the tracks in the rail yards
when he’d offer it to her, you know she never once took it
beneath the I-5 viaduct his teeth clenched to a tourniquet
one day the cops found his body by the train tracks where he’d hop the line to Frisco
But for the last year of his life, he loved a sister of the road …
The song is a sober and timeless reminder of generations of young people at the edge of an urban culture that is both misunderstood and taboo. Neill’s songs, like his parents love of history, have been inspired by those that came before, including Walt Whitman, Mark Twain and Pete Seeger.
Neill tells of an experience he had with the legendary songwriter after recording some medleys about the Hudson River for the compilation album, “Where have all the flowers gone: A tribute to Pete Seeger.”
“We met up in New York City, and he invited me up to his place,” says Neill. “We were waiting for a train in Grand Central Station together on a Saturday night, and we had a half an hour or so before the train arrived. So we played music together in the middle of Grand Central Station. It was amazing,” says Neill.
“I went up to his house and stayed the night, and the guestroom where I stayed is filled with all these old 2-inch tapes, and all this material. I stayed up all night reading everything in the room and overslept until like 10 in the morning. Pete and his wife had been waiting for me to have breakfast, and I’m sure they were up at 6 a.m. He was chopping a cord of wood as I rolled out of bed. They fed me breakfast and then asked me to sing some songs for them in their living room. I can’t describe what that experience did for me.”
But Neill’s more than just a singer and songwriter who writes about the misadventures of sailors, workmen and those tramping on the outer rings of society. “I love to write love songs. Ones that look at love from different perspectives,” says Neill.
One song off the record, “When I came to you,” sung in duet with Little Sue, captures this:
When I came to you, I came with dust and deserted alleys
I came with a train ride across the North in the snow
I came with well-worn clothes that didn’t fit my frame so well
When I came to you I had a lifetime of farewells…
When you came to me you came with women’s names I could not hear
ashes and excess and a thousand yard stare
so like a child and then so steadfast and so strong
when you came to me you didn’t know where you belonged
When you came to me you brought the streets of London in the rain
Boston in the winter, Charlotte in the Spring
Came with a storm to sting my eyes, made me feel alive and free
I walked proud into the daylight when you came to me
Finding a voice
By the mid-to-late ’90s, many of the Americana and indie bands from the Midwest and South, such as Son Volt, Wilco and Whiskeytown, were beginning to be recognized nationwide. Neill, with a long-list of what he calls “magical” musicians, was lingering at the edge of a new indie scene that was exploding from basements and dingy bars onto the covers of major music magazines.
Neill’s first tour was in 1994-95, where his says “the Pacific Northwest crept into my music. In Olympia (where Neill was living), you had this whole D.C. connection with punk rock and obscure folk music being created. The anti-globalization movement was happening. There was something different in the air. An entire group of artists, musicians, and writers just latched onto that. I’ve scurried along the edges of all these different scenes, and worked hard to develop my voice.
“I started out as an activist before I was a working musician, so a lot of those early songs were about direct events and lore from various campaigns,” says Neill. “I was playing at protests, rallies, and blockades right in the heart of it. As I got more involved in the music world, I played at clubs more than punk rock info shops and such. As I got more into the craft of songwriting, my standards for what makes a good political song got very high. Now I don’t write as many because I need them to reach a certain bar of quality, smart and ferocious, but not too didactic. That is not easy. It’s why just telling a story works so well because it leaves the conclusions up to the listener.”
Living within the activist world and underground cultures of the Pacific Northwest, exploring a love for a wide-range of music, Neill has never found the commercial success enjoyed by some in the movements. Neill’s music, along with his fan-base, remains dedicated and grassroots.
“From a marketing perspective, I’ve probably not followed any of the rules,” says Neill. “I’ve bounced from the bluegrass and folk scenes to the Celtic thing, and then rock-n-roll.”
Neill’s first album, “Riffraff,” was released in 1996. The activist community on the West Coast, and others around the country experienced Casey Neill for the first time. A small cult following on islands around the U.S. began.
For the next 11 years, Neill, working with dozens of well-respected musicians, pieced together three more full-length albums and two live recordings, touring the country, including stints in Europe— maintaining a simple lifestyle of hard work and hard play. Neill would live in Olympia, Seattle, in the small town of Concrete, Wash., Portland, New York, and back to Portland, where he currently resides in a modest house in North Portland. During that time, both his experiences and a web of different musicians helped shape the many sounds of Casey Neill.
“A lot of people have believed in me along the way,” Neill says. “It’s very hard to maintain as a working artist without a peer system, or people around you that are supportive. I am lucky to have that.”
In 2007, Neill and the Norway Rats, a group of musicians from Portland and New York, put out “Brooklyn Bridge,” a critically acclaimed recording that explores the haunts of New York City. In the song “Holy Land,” Neill and the Norway Rats capture one aspect of the city’s past with an “aggression and toughness.”
Brother if you are weary and worn, there’s a light in the window for thee
out on the docks where the battery roughs
and Magdelene’s daughters roam easy and free
at the Sportsman’s Hall 273 Water, Kit Burns is the man with the still and the pit
and he’ll take you’re hard scratch for the odds on a match in a house full of vice, filth, and spit
On “Goodbye to the Rank and File” the listener is reminded about of the realities that many working artists, freethinkers and activists face, and a journey we can all relate too. From “When the world was young,”
what ever happened to those who swore they’d never stray?
there’s an undercurrent of dirt and stain no shine can wash away
it’s goodbye to the rank and file are those your taillights leaving town?
i know it’d be a lie if I said I’d see you ‘round
our soundtrack to the end times has all become white noise
static on the airwaves, the echoes of forgotten joys
for the true believers there are a few who still remain
hunkering down in our kingdom of rain
i still have a ringing in my ears,
i still have a ringing in my ears.
Music Review: Casey Neill — Brooklyn Bridge Written by Michael Jones
Published June 03, 2007
Casey Neill's voice, especially on his latest album, Brooklyn Bridge, sends a clarion call up and down my spine whenever I listen to it; all at once it is something both crystal clear and yet wonderfully weathered, and I've fallen in love with it. When you couple it with Neill's knack for penning some of the most wonderful blues/rock/folk/punk/whatever-genre lyrics that have ever danced across my eardrums, I think I'll be on safe footing when I'm finished gushing over it.
In the case of Brooklyn Bridge, specifically, Neill has managed to pour all of the aches and pains earned in a life spent, into music that matters and means something, only to pull free from the mold a damn good album made of an intriguing mixture that blends Indie-Rock, Pop, Folk, Roots-Rock, and Pogue-esque Irish melodies into spellbinding hooks, heartfelt lyrics, and stunning musicianship.
Granted, to paraphrase a famous lyric, he got to this point with more than "a little help" from his friends; specifically in the form of members of The Decemberists, both in the recording studio, and as his current backing band while on tour — Ezra Holbrook and Jenny Conlee, especially.
Of course, it's impossible to try and put down in words what music sounds like, especially what it may sound like to me, say, as opposed to my sister who thinks anything and everything unrelated to My Chemical Romance or The Used, is worthless, but I'll give it a try.
Imagine lying down near the ocean and hearing the whisper of waves as you fall asleep, allowing your mind to settle in and turn the sounds into that of lush and supple guitar licks that just dance across your consciousness. Add to that the soft susurration of crickets in the background that gets turned into sure and steady drum work, which blends in seamlessly with every other sound and yet still manages to keep its own unique identity as it guides where everything else is to follow.
Are you with me, so far?
Once you've finally pictured all of that and have imagined yourself nearly asleep and hearing the soft dreaming sounds of natural musicianship, the soft cries of birds on the horizon floating in on the breeze help you arrive at Neill's wonderful voice, as it dances above everything on Brooklyn Bridge.
Hmm. Well, after that, all I can say is that I tried. Maybe it's the fact that I'm a little stunned at how simple and wonderful this album is, that the words to describe it are something just out of my reach. Brooklyn Bridge is an album composed of all the usual things you'd expect in a album crafted by a talented singer/songwriter. Y'know, maybe that's it. Maybe I've allowed myself to grow so jaded by the lack of something along those lines, that I've allowed my words to atrophry and fall lifeless to the ground.
All I'm left with is "It rocks!" or "It's cool!" or, even worse, "Hey, it doesn't suck!"
Well, Neill's music deserves more than that. It deserves to be heard, and it deserves a place on your radio-station's play list, in your album collection, and in your heart. Don't just take my word for it, though. Click this link and head on over to his myspace page where you'll be able to listen to a couple of tracks from Brooklyn Bridge, as well as a couple from previous albums.
Until then, please forgive the rambling style of this review… and the nap I probably created when I asked you to close your eyes and imagine yourself by the beach. Then again, maybe you should thank me for the nap. Naps are good, almost as good as this album, even.
Casey Neill Brooklyn Bridge (In Music We
Neill's last effort was a striking minimalist (yet modern) folk album. He sang songs about the down and out, and he painted pictures of the west and south (though not exclusively). As the title of this album indicates, he's gone in a slightly different direction.
The songs are still about the down and out, but the focus is more global. There is a lot more electric guitar, but even more striking is the extended instrumentation (not to mention background vocals).
Working with an expanded sound palette works well for Neill. He doesn't overreach or try to make his songs more important. He just allows for a bit more shading in the corners. It may soften the sound, but not his approach.
Memory Against Forgetting has become one of my favorite albums. My sons love it, too. I'm thinking they're gonna like this one a lot, too. Neill is really coming into his own, and that's most exciting to hear.
GREEN MAN REVIEW - live review of CD Release
Party by Camille Alexa
When I was offered the chance to see Casey Neill & the Norway Rats at the beautiful Mission Theater Pub in Portland, Oregon, I jumped at the chance. Seeing anything at the Mission is a fantastic experience, and Casey Neill's music couldn't have been showcased in a more appropriate setting. The pub offerings and the décor are to die for, and the elegance of the place has an edgy undercurrent, perfect for the Celtic ballad-punk sounds of Neill's new CD, Brooklyn Bridge.
Brooklyn Bridge (to be released on Portland-based indie label, In Music We Trust Records) has been a long time coming. Production was delayed by the death of the CD's producer, legendary Scottish fiddle player Johnny Cunningham. Cunningham's untimely passing in 2003 devastated Neill and so many others in the music scene and around the world. At the Brooklyn Bridge release party that grief came to life on stage -- along with joy, love, anger, and hard-edged exuberance -- in the gravelly, Celto-punk voice and strummings of Casey Neill.
Especially when viewed as a whole, the entire evening's performance has an extremely satisfying arc. The opening act, Bonfire Madigan -- a self-described "avant-pop, chamber-rock experiment" -- packs a lot of wallop for such a tiny package. Her performance is passionate, political, and almost too personal. Her intensity of emotion sets the tone for the rest of the night, and her classical virtuosity and unexpected use of her instrument (cello) gives credibility to her activist lyrics.
By the time Casey Neill & the Norway Rats take to the stage with "Brooklyn Bridge", the crowd is primed. The proper numbers of pints have been drunk for true musical appreciation (have I mentioned the lovingly hand-crafted beers on tap at the Mission? Oh yes! Any number of excellent brews; Terminator Stout, Hammerhead, Ruby, Edgefield Wheat, Black Rabbit Porter, Sunflower IPA... but I digress), and the band looks great. A stylish, good-looking bunch they are, and they launch straight into the performance. So much talent on this stage! Nobody lags behind, though the music wends its way through traditional-sounding Celtic reels, past American twang-rock with a country edge, delves into romantic ballad territory and finally, toward the end of the evening, settles firmly into fabulously-delivered Celto-punk. This energetic crescendo is reached in the last quarter of the evening. The audience has thickened, surged forward, and as in the glory days of punk-rock, people press around the edges of what at times looks suspiciously like a mosh pit.
The crowd's frenzy is compelling. I hover on the periphery trying to take it all in, but the center of the dance floor is as a magnet. Here is music so genuine, delivered with such talent and confidence, its lure is undeniable. In the crowd, hair is tossed, arms are raised, and by the time Neill is belting out "Hooray for the riff-raff!" ("Riffraff", from Memory Against Forgetting), fists are pumping the air in celebratory audience participation.
This is what genuine live performance should be; something which pulls you in and grips your blood and invites you to be a part of something larger. This is folk-music, but also country and punk and opera and jazz and the hardest of rock-n-roll. This is what we look for when we see a band live. This is what Casey Neill delivers.
Ethos and Energy Casey Neill's new CD paints
a folk-punk portrait of the Big Apple By GENE ARMSTRONG
At the risk of pigeonholing himself, singer-songwriter Casey Neill admits that, when it comes to musical categories and defining his sound, he's most comfortable with the phrase "folk punk." That makes sense, too, since real folk music has a shared rebellious spirit with punk rock, and real punk rock perennially has been a forum for expressing the concerns of the common folk.
Neill, 35, grew up listening to Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Rickie Lee Jones records from his mother's and father's collections, and although he went through his own hair-metal phase in the 1980s, he says his ears and eyes finally opened to the possibilities of music when he heard acts that combined punk, alternative rock, traditional folk and Americana.
"Aside from those singer-songwriter types, my greatest love has been people who combined a folk ethos and a punk energy, such as Hüsker Dü, the Replacements, the Pogues and Uncle Tupelo," Neill said last week on the phone from his home in Portland, Ore.
Others have described Neill's sound with some variation on "dark alt-folk" or "modern roots rock with country, punk and Celtic styles."
Last week, Neill was preparing to embark on a modest concert tour to promote his brilliant forthcoming CD, Brooklyn Bridge. That three-week jaunt brings him to Tucson for a gig Saturday night at downtown's Solar Culture Gallery.
Neill said he has played in Tucson several times in past years, mostly at venues managed by artist Steven Eye, such as Solar Culture and the former Downtown Performance Center.
Although Neill has returned to Portland after several years of living and playing in and around the Big Apple, Brooklyn Bridge is in large part a poetic folk-punk portrait of the huddled masses that comprise the diverse human tapestry that is New York City.
The album's second song, a collision of Celtic and rowdy Springsteen-style rock titled "We Are the City," is among its defining high points. Its energy and edge seem to represent the richness of community in New York.
Addressing lyrics such as "The beautiful and the broken ... I'm drinking down on 11th and A with all my favorite wastrels," Neill explained: "I think I was living there and getting that whole feeling of a world-in-a-city thing. You hear five languages or more a day on the subways. That aspect of it is really different from most other American cities.
"The other thing that happened to inspire that song was I took a summer-school course on Walt Whitman, and he wrote page after page about the people and landmarks of the city, making it a living, breathing entity."
Elsewhere on the CD, Neill evokes traditional Celtic music, R.E.M.'s jangly fusion of country-folk and modern rock, admitted Neill idols such as Nick Cave, New Model Army and Fugazi, and what seems like the breadth of folk Americana, from Pete Seeger to Steve Earle.
Although Neill's own Celtic roots reach back to Scotland more than to Ireland, the epic literature and songwriting styles of immigrants from the British isles has greatly affected his sensibilities.
"There's that traditional immigrant experience, for people of the second or third generations to have come here. So much of our music today is steeped in it. Definitely, that music has spoken to me. Songs like 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald' and stuff--I was instantly drawn to that type of melody and storytelling style."
However, Neill first decided he wanted to create music of his own when became enraptured at 10 years old with Joan Jett's "I Love Rock 'n' Roll" on the radio. "The funny thing is that Eric 'Roscoe' Ambel plays guitar on that track," he said.
Funny because Ambel is one of many guest artists who cameo on Brooklyn Bridge. Among the other participants are singer-songwriters Erin McKeown and John Wesley Harding, as well as Jenny Conlee and Chris Funk of the chamber-pop band The Decemberists. (Conlee and Funk both play in the Neill-fronted Pogues tribute band KMRIA.)
Neill's current touring band is a small combo named the Norway Rats. It's a trio with drummer Adam East and bassist Jeff Lister, Neill said.
Slated for a May 8 release on the Portland-based independent label In Music We Trust Records, Brooklyn Bridge is Neill's sixth release overall and was some five years in the making, he confessed.
Neill released his 1995 debut album, Riffraff, himself. It landed him a deal with the folk label Appleseed Recordings, which released Casey Neill in 1998. That was followed by 1999's Skree, which was produced by the late, legendary Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham.
Neill formed a fast friendship with Cunningham, who played in such groups as Nightnoise and Silly Wizard and produced acts as varied as Solas and the Dropkick Murphys. They kept in touch as Neill "ping-ponged" back and forth between New York and Portland.
Following Neill's 2001 live album Portland West, Cunningham convinced Neill to dive into his record collection and incorporate his love of electric music into his repertoire of theretofore acoustic music. Recording commenced on the tracks that would become Brooklyn Bridge.
Cunningham passed away unexpectedly at 46 in December 2003. Part of the recordings had been completed, but Neill took his time editing and re-recording some of the tracks in a manner similar to how he imagined Cunningham would have.
In the meantime, Neill saw the release in 2005 of the stopgap album Memory Against Forgetting, a collection of demos, live cuts, asides and tracks from the now-out-of-print Riffraff. That CD served to keep Neill on the minds of folk and indie rock fans around the country.
To complete the album, Neill created a loving tribute to Cunningham, the elegiac Tom Waits-influenced ballad "King Neptune."
No matter which song he's singing, Neill's warm, gruff and friendly growl is a constant. He said Cunningham instructed him to not let his voice become too pretty on some of the songs from Brooklyn Bridge. "He told me to party until dawn before the recording sessions, so I'd sound like hell, like Mark Lanegan."
OREGONIAN reviews 'BROOKLYN BRIDGE'
A novel approach
Friday, May 11, 2007
Like great film, great music is a good story well told. Casey Neill has spun a good one with "Brooklyn Bridge." The Portlander exposes a tender nerve with 12 songs that play out like a novel, shoving the listener into everything from seedy New York wharf-rat tableaus to loving tributes to fallen brothers and old lovers.
Neill marries the heartstring intimacy of folk music to the raw power of punk, with electric results: Imagine Pete Seeger grabbing a downed power line. These are intensely personal songs rendered with barely contained vulnerability and woe, wicked observation and soul-scrubbing catharsis. Neill's voice is grit and urgency, not unlike Tom Waits or the young Bruce Springsteen.
Six years in the making, the genesis of "Brooklyn Bridge" came about from Neill's friendship with Scottish fiddler and producer Johnny Cunningham, who helped shape early tracks. He also convinced Neill to relocate to New York to perform the mix of folk and punk with him in 2002. They took up residency and laid down the beginnings of this record. Sadly, Cunningham passed away in 2003. Neill recorded additional tracks, including the sweetly haunting "King Neptune," a piano-and-accordion ode to his friend. Neill forged an unforgettable sound with help from the heavyweights with whom he travels, including members of Portland's folk and alt-country elite (the Decemberists' Jenny Conlee, Ezra Holbrook, Lewie Longmire, Little Sue ).
Good storytellers chronicle the age. Count Neill among our best.
WILLAMETTE WEEK Joy In Mudville May 9th,
2007 by Jeff Rosenberg It's a long road from Portland to Brooklyn. But, for
local songwriter Casey Neill, the path to Brooklyn Bridge—his new album—was
far longer than geography would imply. It's been eight years, in fact, since
Neill last released a collection of all-new material. And that nearly decadelong
journey stretches from Portland to Manhattan and back again, passing through
several groups and labels along the way, and one unexpected, harrowing turn:
the sudden death of Neill's musical mentor (and the album's co-producer),
celebrated Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham.
But Cunningham didn't depart without giving Neill a valedictory pep talk on the value of the songs now on Brooklyn Bridge (out yesterday). At their favorite East Village bar, two nights before his fatal heart attack in December 2003, Cunningham told Neill "how he really wanted this music to be heard," Neill recalls. "One of those 'you can make it, kid!' conversations." Those words helped Neill revive the project sooner than he otherwise might have following the death of his friend and collaborator.
And it was largely Cunningham's enthusiasm for Neill's music that had drawn the gruff-voiced singer back to his native Northeast in late 2002. Neill had spent a decade in Olympia and five years in Portland—during which he developed a nascent nationwide folkie following, both alone and with the Casey Neill Trio. Cunningham produced the trio's lone studio album, 1999's Skree, but after a follow-up live disc, the group disbanded. Afterward, Cunningham expressed a wish, Neill explains, "to take a bunch of my new songs from zero to finished without any agendas." None, perhaps, save one: In the spirit of Neill's loud musical heroes from Springsteen to New Model Army, Cunningham said, "Let's amp this up all the way." When Cunningham offered not only to produce the album but to play in a new band, Neill found himself with "no relationship, no plants, no cats" and no reason not to move to New York.
The Casey Neill Band, as it was, quickly grew into a high-volume monster demanding its own live album. Meanwhile, radical publishers AK Press and Indigo Girl Amy Ray's Daemon Records approached Neill about issuing a compilation of his political songs. Some new material emerged, allowing him to push Brooklyn Bridge further away. When Neill finally returned to Portland in 2005, he assembled yet another group, which he christened the Norway Rats after Manhattan's endemic rodents.
But Neill says the album didn't feel complete—and he didn't feel fully back in Portland—until the St. Patrick's Day '06 launch of KMRIA, the Pogues tribute band he formed with a couple of friends who also happened to be Decemberists (Chris Funk and Jenny Conlee), among other Portland players. The collective backs Neill on one of Brooklyn Bridge's standout tracks, "The Holy Land." It's an immigrants' tale that, though steeped in Lower East Side mythology, truly brought the album—and this well-traveled troubadour—back home.
THE OLYMPIAN Songwriter Casey Neill easily
crosses genres Thematic thread is fierce on Casey Neill's latest album 'Brooklyn
Bridge' by Molly Gilmore
Although his album "Brooklyn Bridge" was produced by legendary Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham, Casey Neill doesn't consider his music to be Celtic.
"I have a huge love of punk rock and a huge love of traditional folk music," said Neill of Portland, who'll perform tonight at the Eagles Hall in Olympia. "Where those two things collide is where most of my favorite music is."
On "Brooklyn Bridge," Neill plays with a wide array of guest artists, including John Wesley Harding and The Decemberists' Jennie Conlee and Chris Funk, both of whom play in KMRIA, Neill's Pogues tribute band. Conlee will play with Neill tonight.
As for genre, Neill crosses it all the time. He's made heavily Celtic albums, and iTunes classifies different Neill albums as folk, country and pop.
"In most styles of music that people listen to, barring like Indian classical or symphonic, there's a Western song format, " he said. "Really, any song could be arranged into any of those genres - folk music, rock music.
"New country music today kind of sounds like '80s pop ballads, but it's very lit tle like what many people actually think of as country music," he added.
Neill got into Celtic music while attending The Evergreen State College, from which he graduated in 1995. He lived in Olympia from 1989 to 1994.
"An Irish band called Altan came through," he recalls. "The music was a ferocious as any punk or metal band I'd ever seen, and then they would have these heart-wrenching ballads. I was totally moved."
He studied Irish music at Evergreen and got involved in Celtic music.
"Some of the world's most prominent Scottish and Irish musicians have lived in the Northwest, probably because the weather is so similar," he said. "I met those people.
"I was still writing and playing in underground music circles," he added, "but it started to work its way into everything I did."
Neill will be familiar to some in South Sound from his time here. "I started working under my own name playing at Evergreen and around town, and I released a cassette in '93 or '94, something like that. It was the alt-rock salad days.
"I've been playing in town once a year at least ever since," he said.
On "Brooklyn Bridge," Neill's music spans the country.
He moved from Portland t o New York City, where Cunningham lived, while working on the album.
"The first three songs anyway are all about life in New York, and I guess that's kind of a theme through the whole thing," he said. "A lot of people who've written about the record have commented on it.
"It's funny because a lot of it was written in Portland, and musicians from Portland worked on it. To me, it has a real grounding in the Northwest music community.
"The last song is called 'Colville Blues,' and it's kind of a lonesome love song set in Colville, Wash.," he added. "I really like songs to have a sense of place. I like to set a scene so you know kind of where something is occurring."
The record has more of a thematic thread then Neill's earlier work. "The previous albums had pretty much been me and whatever band I had. We would have the arrangements set and go in and make the album.
"This was a project Johnny and I built from the ground up," he said. "Each song was without a previous arrangement, and we would see where it would take us."
"Brooklyn Bridge" also was a long-term project. Cunningham died in 2003.
"We were about 80 percent done and then he passed away," Neill said. "And ever since then, I've been tinkering with it. He was a dear friend of mine, and it was emotionally charged, and I couldn't let go of it."
PORTLAND TRIBUNE All-star album comes with
a bit of a brogue By Barbara Mitchell May 11, 2007
Casey Neill fronts local Pogues cover band, KMRIA, and that Celtic sensibility pervades — but never hijacks — his excellent new album, "Brooklyn Bridge."
Recorded on both coasts with an all-star cast that includes guest vocalists John Wesley Harding and Erin McKeown and Decemberists Chris Funk and Jenny Conlee, "Brooklyn Bridge" offers up boozy rave-ups like "Storyline" and tender ballads such as "Once Upon a When" and "Watch for Me" with equal dexterity.
Neill may have a knack for gathering the right supporting cast (his band for tonight's performance includes Conlee and Funk, as well as drummer Ezra Holbrook, guitarist Lewi Longmire and vocalist Little Sue, among others), but he wouldn't be able to assemble that kind of crack ensemble if he weren't such a remarkably gifted storyteller with such an expressive voice.
From start to finish, "Brooklyn Bridge" is a compelling and varied offering from one of Portland's finest singer-songwriters, and an album that should appeal to a variety of tastes.
SANTA CRUZ GOOD TIMES May 2007 With a voice that epitomizes tired sincerity, singer songwriter Casey Neill is at once reflective raconteur, effortlessly soliciting your empathy, and that crazy guy at the end of the bar who is the first to splash beer on himself as he raises his beer and voice to the strains of a rowdy Irish drinking song. Neill's style, a rare blend of Celtic folk rock that switches seamlessly between pub-worthy romps decrying political injustices and "tear in your beer" tunes railing against complicated love, has long since earned the "next big artist" blessing of Steve Earle, Amy Ray, and Pete Seeger. But the Portland, Oregon based musician didn't really earn his edge until he relocated to Manhattan to try his hand at the definitive big city hard life. Counting himself among the "beautiful and the broken" in his new folk-rock anthem "We Are the City". Neill's impressions of the Big Apple are clear - just follow the insistent refrain "Gotham, Gomorrah".
THECHICKENFISHSPEAKS.com Casey Neill - Brooklyn Bridge - CD (In Music We Trust) This release brings together the elements of folk, alt-country and a bit of celtic from a musician I'm embarrassed to say I never heard about. Casey Neill's writing and vocal style himself brought to mind thoughts of Warren Zevon and Neil Young in his prime. Featuring members of The Decemberists and John Wesley Harding you can start to get the whole picture of the unique sound of this release. Brooklyn Bridge has a raw, stripped down sound that is honest and revealing.
Casey Neill Integrates Folk-Punk in Brooklyn Bridge
Posted on Friday 20 April 2007
While most artists can be clumped into one accustomed genre, there are always those few who stay clear of the classification process. Casey Neill's newest album, Brooklyn Bridge, sounded like an ambitious sampling to me at first. The first song on the album, the self-titled "Brooklyn Bridge", was a flowingly electric country ballad that reminded me slightly of R.E.M.'s post-Monster career, showcasing an accessible though lighthearted nature. At that point, skimming the track-listing and seeing song names like "Colville Blues" and "Chainlink Fence", I expected the diversity of Brooklyn Bridge not to differ much from the opening track. That thought process indeed proved me wrong, as I ignored the fact that Casey Neill is a songwriter who looks down on repetition, a songwriter that always surprises his listeners with ingenuity, aggression, and liveliness. When the second song, "We Are The City", came on, I found myself with my eyebrows raised with surprise and delight. "We Are The City" does not even sound like it was written by the same artist who wrote "Brooklyn Bridge", but that's not necessarily a bad thing. After all, no one holds the desire to listen to the same replication of an opening track twelve times. This belligerent song works off of a continuous guitar riff and a distinctive organ (complementary of The Decemberists' Jennie Conlee), showcasing Neill's grasp of assiduous folk-punk.
It's slightly humorous that I was reminded of The Decemberists when I heard "The Holy Land" for the first time. Clearly sounding as if it derives from an era of swashbuckling pirates and misty pubs on a sea port, it features both The Decemberists' Jennie Conlee and guitarist Chris Funk (of the famed Colbert Report shred-off). I suppose it is no coincidence, as both The Decemberists and Neill spent a large portion of their lives in Oregon. You can almost smell the seashore on Neill's raspy whiskey-soaked voice as it interlaces itself over Conlee's accordion, Funk's banjo, and Neill's own assortment of guitars. The commencing three songs provide as archetypes for the rest of Brooklyn Bridge, fusing together a mixture of country, folk, punk, and fetching Americana. Neill's genuine small-town feel comes through in the enthusiastic "Chainlink Fence", with Neill proudly preceding the bursting chorus' hook with a naturally realistic line, "We cracked a can of Milwaukee, took free throws from the line, smiled as the
neighborhood girls walked by and didn't pay us any mind." Tracks like "Chainlink Fence" and "Throw Me To The Dogs" are strong models for Neill's resourceful hooks, while lighter songs in the form of "Beautiful Night" and "King Neptune" show Neill's emotional durability and dare I say it, more passionate side. Accordingly, that "passionate" tag applies to more than just his music, as he is a notable environmentalist who sports an interest in old-fashioned protest music. His interest in environmentalism and fondness for punk and folk have earned him more than a few comparisons to influential British folk artist Billy Bragg.
Neill currently resides in New York City, continuing to work with the all-star cast of artists that encompasses Brooklyn Bridge. Much of the album was also composed of Neill's past projects, including the Casey Neill Trio that contained multi-instrumentalist Zak Borden and fiddler Anthea Lawrence. Neill's first release came in 1995 with Riffraff, a folk-punk album consisting of twelve songs that embodied a strong political core. One of his songs, "Old Father Hudson-Sailing Down Dirty Stream", was a Pete Seeger cover that appeared on the Grammy nominated tribute compilation, Where Have All the Flowers Gone. Appearing on the same album among the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Donovan, Billy Bragg, and Jackson Browne, it was quite the first experience for the young and aspiring Casey Neill. Shortly after the glowing contribution, he was signed by Appleseed Records and released his self-titled album in 1998. In 1999, he formed the the Casey Neill Trio with Borden and Lawrence, releasing the critically acclaimed Skree that same year. After releasing two live albums, Memory Against Forgetting was released in 2005. Brooklyn Bridge was re-released this year and should garner a good amount of attention, generally based on Neill's consistency for quality songwriting. Brooklyn Bridge was dedicated to late Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham, additionally an influential producer who played a vital role in Neill's career as a mentor, friend, and collaborator. In addition to producing Skree, he supplied his fiddling to the elusive "Storyline", one of his last musical works before his death in 2003, respectably. Despite a few blatant missteps, Brooklyn Bridge is an enjoyable listen that explores several of Neill's honed genres.
OREGONIAN RATS PACK 'EM IN AT EDGEFIELD
Monday, February 12, 2007 by Lee Williams
It seemed like a secret Friday night find.
An all-star accumulation of Portland's indie-rock, folk, country and even Irish traveling music playing a show in the hidden, ivy-covered Blackberry Hall, tucked up a slight hill behind Edgefield Manor in Troutdale.
Turns out, it wasn't much of a secret.
Loyal fans of the folk singer-songwriter Casey Neill-led collective, the Norway Rats, tracked the band down, and curious sonic explorers -- drawn by the early hour, the price (free) and the line-up (the Norway Rats include Little Sue and founding Decemberists' drummer Ezra Holbrook) -- filled the spot. Blackberry Hall was standing-room-only and all-ages, with the youngest leading the night's dancing.
Sophia Goslin, 2, pulled her mom, Troutdale resident Alise Goslin, to the floor for the first rollicking jig of the Norway Rats' set, which comprised mostly original, rocking and heartening story-songs that spanned centuries in theme -- from Civil War tales to contemporary street life -- and lasted nearly three hours.
Friday's show, the second stop on the band's current Great Northwest Music Tour, finds the Rats magically blending musical artistry and fearless social commentary into fiery, amped and quite family-friendly entertainment. (Even with a set-list that includes the song "The Holy Land," an uplifting ode to a particular New York City avenue, that, at the turn-of-the-first century, included a brothel and a community of folks who wagered on rat fights.)
Neill's Springsteen-like vocals (often artfully aided by Little Sue's country croon and Irish-whistle player Hanz Araki' s poignant notes) scour and sooth some hard points in history: "Paddy's Lament" relays the tragic fate of a new Irish immigrant conscripted into service for his adopted country; and "Sisters of the Road," tells a modern story of Portland's street kids, while giving a mindful nod to the community of folks who help them out.
The Norway Rats moved surprisingly effortlessly from melancholy ballads to movement-inspiring modern rock such as "We Are The City," packed with Holbrook's mighty beats.
Tough and tender, this is a band that will likely keep pulling in more fans, now that the secret is out. Truth be told: You just can't hide honest music.
Irish music is tied to the drink like no other. It roots down your spine and pushes you towards the bar. Golden ales splash over glasses, down throats, onto shirts, and warm the cold floor. Dance in it. Smell it. See it shine. Peer at the stage through glazed eyes and suddenly those sentimental stories have happened to you. Indeed, boozehelps make Irish music work. So maybe if you cut Casey Neill open, he'll bleed Guinness as the Brooklyn transplant certainly observes that musical heritage. And while there are hints of more American folk and punk in Neill's glass, make no mistake, 'tis some floor stompin', bleeding heart, Shane MacGowan-esque, traditional pub shit.
SPLENDID reviews 'Memory Against Forgetting'
by Marco Rivera
Memory Against Forgetting opens with its emblematic title track, which borrows its central motif from the "You don't know your past, you don't know your future" truism, that invincible and sometimes self/importantly annoying motto of the socially aware. A moving paean to the rebirth of activism during that unforgettable week in Seattle back in late 1999, it's a fitting introduction to Neill's strong, politically charged and, alas, criminally neglected body of work, equally reliant on the powers of punk, folk, Americana and Celtic music. Reclaiming tradition and social consciousness as weapons of resistance and tools for significant societal change, Neill appeals to our desire for collective experience, spinning touching and uplifting stories of hope, dignity and progressive politics. He shows his commitment to community values with a sympathetic look at the unsung underdog heroes and martyrs of everyday life: street buskers, homeless people, the unemployed, human rights advocates, friends lost to religious fanaticism. Be it through raucous rockers (the excellent "Disorder"), fragile acoustic ballads ("Codfisher"), ragged country, passionate bursts of punk fury or soulful touches of Irish folk, Neill's narrative talent and concern for real people's struggles stand out. The haunting timbres provided by fiddle players Johnny Cunningham and Sligo master Kevin Burke evoke an epic feel that fits perfectly with the implicit grandiosity of this emotional material, delivered with a raspy, affectionate voice that recalls Life's Rich Pageant-era Michael Stipe. Interestingly, as Memory Against Forgetting revisits songs culled from Casey Neill's ten-year trajectory as a recording artist, more contemporary flavors have been added to the traditional folksy, guitar-based approach: the title track gains a dirty programmed beat, while "Sisters Of The Road" acquires a subtle synth accent. The album's thirteen tracks, drawn from live shows, obscure compilations and out-of-print material, also illustrate how Neill's art benefited from his going electric following 1999's Skree. However, some of the songs remain undoctored -- pictures of a past that's better left as-is, scattered in a gallery of lively, jumbled reminiscences. The results are so evocative, you'll be tempted to steep further in these memories, the better to share Casey Neill's particular blend of personal and historical experience.
Casey Neill Memory Against Forgetting (AK
Casey Neill combines traditional roots music themes and sounds and merges them almost seamlessly with the power of modern technology. The recording simply pops out of the speakers--I haven't heard production this fine on a roots album in ages.
And that spectacular sound pales in comparison to the grace and strength of Neill's writing. He's adept in all sorts of styles, from bluegrass to reels to folk to ballads, and he infuses his songs with a depth of lyrical detail that is rarely found. The richness of each song is almost overwhelming.
Then we get to the amazing sound. While this sort of music does sound pretty good when presented unadorned, this album is proof that an outstanding producer can punch up the material without overdoing the job. The sound on this album is truly alive; these songs throb with life.
One of the finest albums I've ever heard. Period. Every part is spot on, and Neill proves himself one of the best songwriters around. A must not only for the roots fan, but for the fan of great music in general. Neill has been doing this for more than 10 years...I've got to get my hands on that back catalog. This album is truly sublime.
UTNE READER reviews "Memory Against
Forgetting" by Keith Goetzman
"... soul-searing songs about smoke jumpers, jesus freaks, codfishermen, molybdenum miners, and more. He takes the guy-with-a-guitar approach to a higher level and pulls you up with him."
PUNK PLANET This right here is a slice of pure Americana, folk in its truest sense. This compilation of Casey Neill's past 10 years seems old and wise, a collection of stories of the lives of everyday people. Neill's a masterful songwriter, and this compilation highlights his talent.
BORDER RADIO COLUMN by Kurt Reighley On a related note, one of the highlights on Memory Against Forgetting, by upstart folkie Casey Neill, is a live version of the traditional "Paddy's Lament," taped at the Pickathon a couple years back. It's just one of 13 previously unreleased gems featured on this new collection from the politically charged, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter, who sounds a bit like David Gray... if the latter had bigger cojones. But don't just take our word for it; Neill plays the Conor Byrne on Friday, May 27.