The songs on Neko Case’s 1998 solo debut, The Virginian, were rooted in catchy honky-tonk and retro pop, but ever since she’s been fruitfully working toward a distinctive synthesis of styles. With her latest and best album, Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti-), she’s arrived at an amalgam of southern soul, black gospel, spaghetti-western twang, and girl-group pop that she totally owns. It’s a dark record, mostly hovering ballads thick with gothic imagery, and Case often dispenses with standard song structures–what passes for a chorus is often just another melodic episode that glides by once. That makes it her least immediate album, but it’s also her most resonant and richly detailed one. The mood’s intimate, though Case tends not to express herself directly: on “That Teenage Feeling” she connects her solitude to her unrealistic romantic expectations, but more often her lyrics are enigmatic metaphors suggesting loss and regret. Contributing to the gorgeous sound of the album are past cohorts like the Sadies and members of Calexico, joined by guests like the Band’s Garth Hudson. Case coproduced the record, and her arrangements perfectly balance her controlled singing with the moody settings–reverb-driven murk and ever-morphing figures on electric guitar, organ, and strings. Martha Wainwright opens. Fri 3/31, 8 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, 18+, sold out.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Frank Swider.