Tom Waits Covers: Neko Case Covers Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis

by Brendan Strong

Years ago, maybe as many as 15, a friend and I agreed that no one could really cover Tom Waits. There is something in his voice, his approach to music – tight, but with little trills or flourishes.

“Except Neko Case” he said. “Who?” I asked. “Neko Case does a cover of Christmas Card in Minneapolis”. Some time later (after investigating Neko Case, who I was unaware of before then), I heard this, and it floored me.

She takes the character, but does something more at the same time. Playing with phraseolgy, she doesn’t just tell a story, she makes us listen to it, brings us into it. The voice is kind of insouciant, but also managing to be urgent: demanding we listen to each line to fully understand what’s going on in this woman’s mind.There is a high-then-low in each line: she starts off going upward (in pitch and tone, perhaps in feeling too), but by the end of the line, we’re coming back down again (and it is a “we”: Case brings us along on this journey, she doesn’t just present it).

Next time – Lucinda Wiliams.

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