Go to a Casey Neill show and you never know what you might hear. One minute, he’s playing a Celtic-influenced folk song called “Paddy’s Lament;” next, an REM-esque country tune “Brooklyn Bridge;” and then, The Pogues-style punk rocker “Dancing on the Ruins of Multinational Corporations.” Some things remain constant: the influence of traditional music of the British Isles, and a fascination with where classic rock, The Clash and Bruce Springsteen intersect.
The Portland-based singer-songwriter has long been on the verge of “the next big thing” status, but while the guy has carved a respectable niche for himself, he’s yet to catch the break he needs to get to the next level, befitting the hard-luck, blue-collar subjects of his songwriting. “There is a certain nostalgia in the music for a time when Seattle was a lot like Tacoma,” says Neill on his website, “and Portland was pretty rundown too. Things have gotten better in a million ways, but a certain feel has been lost.”
These days Neill surrounds himself with a four-star supporting cast called The Norway Rats including members of Eels, Minus 5, the Decemberists and Lucinda Williams’ band among others. Chris Funk of the Decemberists produced Neill’s latest record All You Pretty Vandals — slated for release in 2013. Vandals highlights Neill’s punk rock influence more than past recordings, and in keeping with a move toward rock and away from folk, he’s out playing shows in support of an exclusively digital live EP called On the Wire Vol. 1, recorded with The Norway Rats.
On the Wire collects rockers from Neill’s catalog like “Beautiful Night,” “This Year was a Blur” — Neill’s voice passing in a pinch for Michael Stipe — and a cover of Joe Strummer’s “Coma Girl.”
Casey Neill plays with Sassparilla 9:30 pm Friday, Jan. 4, at Sam Bond’s; $5.