[DAMAGED ROOTS] For nearly two decades, Casey Neill has been filtering post-hardcore energies through an Americana muse for tales of wry lamentation, and the barroom mythologizing wed to painstaking craft has never sounded so perfectly realized. A songwriter's songwriter, Neill has no end of devoted fans within the Pacific Northwest music community, and the new album brings a murderer's row of local talent. Alongside the Norway Rats' rhythm section of bassist Jesse Emerson and drummer Joe Mengis, producer Chris Funk enlists his fellow Decemberists Jenny Conlee and John Moen, guitarists Chet Lyster (Eels) and Matt Brown (She & Him) and vocals from Scott McCaughey, Luz Elena Mendoza and Langhorne Slim for backdrops that veer from the deceptively simple—see the strummed riff recast as rusted truck-door hinge on opener "Hollow Bones"—to beguilingly intricate as the songs demand. Atop them all lay Neill's big-hearted, full-voiced yarns, his vocals resembling a working man's Michael Stipe. He brings a certain empathetic grandeur to high-minded tales of resolutely low lives with all the crack musicianship and casual authenticity a few decades treading the boards should allow.
SEE IT: Casey Neill and the Norway Rats play Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E Burnside St., with Sassparilla, on Friday, Nov. 15. 9 pm. $12 advance, $14 day of show. 21 .