If there is a single Neko Case song that best encapsulates the remarkable stylistic and narrative sway of her music, my vote would go to “The Needle Has Landed.” The closing tune to what is arguably her strongest album, 2006’s “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood,” outlines a return to the singer’s Northwestern roots (“poor Spanaway”) and a region filed with graying memories and a few demons — specifically, the less than welcoming mindsets of a lost love’s subsequent girlfriends (“Your exes have clawed up the bible trying to keep me away”). The song wears its regret openly, but then you hear that voice — that colossally clear singing full of contradictions (mystery and clarity, resignation and confidence) spilling over an effortless musical mesh of pop smarts and country insight.
It’s an extraordinary work, but a mere a snapshot within an exemplary catalog that Case has compiled over the last two decades. She hasn’t added to that arsenal in awhile, with over four years passing since the release of her last album, the epically titled “The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight; The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You.” There have been other projects, though, including 2016’s “case/lang/viers” (a wonderfully surreal set of pop portraits with k.d. lang and Laura Viers) and 2017’s “Whiteout Conditions” (her seventh album as a member of the Canadian indie pop collective The New Pornographers).
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But for Case’s long overdue return to Lexington Friday, expect the genre-bashing song stylist to stick to her own repertoire, which includes epic alt-country outings cut for Chicago’s Bloodshot label that helped introduce her to curious pop audiences (2000’s “Furnace Room Lullaby,” 2002’s “Blacklisted”) and more spaciously sounding, reverb-soaked pop adventures (2009’s sublime “Middle Cyclone”).
“As far as why we chose these particular tunes … Well, we don’t know the answer to that,” Case said prior a 2006 concert with The Sadies at the long-since-demolished Dame. “We like them in a way fans like them. It’s not an intellectual process.”
Grammy winners on Grammy weekend
The 60th annual Grammy Awards will be broadcast live at 7:30 p.m. Sunday on CBS (WKYT-TV 27). But, before the show, here are two very different ways to view a pair of very different Grammy winners.
▪ Friday, Jimmy Webb performs at the Lancaster Grand Theatre at 117 Lexington Street in Lancaster. Webb has won three Grammys; curiously, none of them for his iconic songs made famous by Glen Campbell in the late 1960s. (7:30 p.m.; $10-$55). Call 859-583-1716 or go to Lancastergrand.com for tickets.
▪ Then on Saturday, you can watch Kentucky’s own Chris Stapleton make his second appearance on “Saturday Night Live” (11:30 p.m., NBC). “SNL” star alum Will Ferrell will host. Stapleton won two Grammys in 2016 for his debut solo album, “Traveler.” He’s up for two more on Sunday for “From A Room: Vol. 1” — best country album and best country song for “Broken Halos” — and he has since released the followup, “From A Room: Vol. 2.” Stapleton is also set to perform on the Grammy telecast with Emmylou Harris.
Outside the Spotlight
15th Anniversary Concert with Anteloper and Josh Berman. 7 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Farish Theater of the Lexington Public Library, 140 E. Main St. Free. 859-231- 5500. Jaimiebranch.com, Jason-nazary.com, Joshberman.net.
Outside the Spotlight has been operating largely under the radar of late. On Saturday, however, the long-running series of indie jazz and improvised music concerts hits a milestone with a bill that serves as Outside the Spotlight’s 200th performance event as well as a slightly belated 15th-anniversary celebration.
Since initial presentations in 2002, Outside the Spotlight — specifically, founder and organizer Ross Compton — introduced Lexington to a legion of artists who forged the lessons of free jazz artists from the 1960s with their own improvisational imprints, whether through starkly acoustic (and often unamplified) settings to brave new electronic soundscapes.
The two acts performing for the Saturday concert at the Farish Theatre represent both schools. The New York duo Anteloper unites percussionist Jason Nazary (who has performed several Outside the Spotlight shows in past years as a member of Jason Ajemian’s HighLife) and trumpeter Jaimie Branch (who, outside of her acclaimed 2017 album “Fly or Die,” has collaborated with such non-jazz ensembles as Spoon, TV on the Radio and the wonderful Bell Orchestre). Both artists double on electronics.
The concert will also feature a solo cornet performance by Chicago’s Josh Berman, an Outside the Spotlight frequent flier who has performed series shows as a member of Audio One, Fast Citizens and the Chicago Luzern Exchange.
These days, Outside the Spotlight stages concerts only on a periodic basis (although additional shows are tentatively set for March and May). But expect the series to be in fully operative mode as it turns 15 on Saturday. WRFL-FM is sponsoring the event.