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Jukebox

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Cat Power

Jukebox

12" LP

Availability: In stock

$13.99

Quick Overview

Cat Power's second collection of cover songs for dreary days (2000's The Covers Record was the first), the ever-mysterious Chan Marshall is joined here by her newish cohorts, the Dirty Delta Blues Band. Her backing band here eschews big production and string arrangements in favor of a more skeletal, bluesy, and languid approach. Her voice, of course, remains extraordinary--sent from the heavens and perfectly marred by cigarettes. Marshall takes the usual liberties with melody, as on opener "New York," made popular by Ol' Blue Eyes himself (who wouldn't recognize this were it not for the lyrics). "Ramblin (Wo)man" is fairly true to Hank Williams's original, despite the extra syllable, and is wonderfully suited for Marshall's voice. The Highwaymen's "Silver Stallion" may be the finest track on the album, with Marshall and an acoustic slide guitar taking the lead, accompanied by some distant, ambient guitar work. James Brown's "Lost Someone" is also quite nice, an opportunity to explore the many dynamics of that aforementioned ethereal voice. Jukebox closes with three appropriate covers of other artists often mentioned in Cat Power reviews: Billie Holiday's "Can't Explain;" "Woman Left Lonely," popularized by Janis Joplin; and Joni Mitchell's "Blue." This record's solid, but when that next batch of originals comes around, one can only hope for some of the exuberant risk-taking that made previous outings so stellar.

Details

Eight years is a long time in almost any artist's career, but in Cat Power's case, it's an even more sizable gulf, as Chan Marshall's collections of other people's songs reflect. Released in 2000, The Covers Record found her becoming an ever more nuanced performer, tempering the rawness and intensity of her earlier albums with a lighter approach. Arriving in 2008, Jukebox reaffirms what a polished artist she's become, especially since her Memphis soul homage The Greatest. But where The Greatest sometimes bordered on slick, Jukebox's blend of country, soul, blues, and jazz feels lived-in and natural. Marshall recorded this set with her touring act, the Dirty Delta Blues Band, featuring some of indie rock's finest players, including her longtime drummer, the Dirty Three's Jim White -- who gives even the quietest moments vitality -- as well as Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's Judah Bauer and Chavez's Matt Sweeney, so it's not surprising that the album often plays like an especially well-recorded concert. However, some of the session legends she worked with on The Greatest make guest appearances, including Teenie Hodges and Spooner Oldham. Oldham's song for Janis Joplin, "A Woman Left Lonely," appears here, and the original's sophisticated yet earthy sound is one of the album's biggest influences. As on The Covers Record, Marshall makes bold choices. She citifies Hank Williams' "Ramblin' Man" (switched to "Ramblin' [Wo]Man" here), turning it slinky and smoky with spacious drums and rippling Rhodes; despite the very different surroundings, the song's desperate loneliness remains. Joni Mitchell's icily beautiful "Blue" gets a thaw and a late-night feel that are completely different but just as compelling. Not all of Jukebox's transformations are this successful: Marshall's penchant for turning formerly brash songs brooding (like The Covers Record's "Satisfaction") sounds too predictable on Frank Sinatra's "New York." And, while the choice to change James Brown's "I Lost Someone" from searing and pleading to languid was brave, the results fall flat. One of the most drastic remakes is Marshall's own Moon Pix track "Metal Heart," which adds more drama and dynamics to one of her prettiest melodies. While the way this version swings from aching verses to cathartic choruses works, the subtlety and simplicity of the original are missed. Indeed, many of Jukebox's best moments are the simplest. Marshall's reworking of the Highwaymen's 1990 hit "Silver Stallion" frees the song from its dated production, replacing it with acoustic guitar and pedal steel that impart a timeless, restless beauty. She pays Bob Dylan homage with a gritty, defiant, yet reverent take on "I Believe in You" from his 1978 Christian album Slow Train Coming and "Song to Bobby," Jukebox's lone new track, dedicated to and inspired by Dylan so thoroughly that she borrows his trademark cadences without sounding like an impersonation. Uneven as it may be, Jukebox is still a worthwhile portrait of Chan Marshall's artistry. [The deluxe edition of Jukebox comes with a bonus disc of five more covers that are even better than the ones on the album proper, including a languidly sexy reading of Nick Cave's "Breathless" and a rollicking "Naked, If I Want To," originally by Moby Grape.]

Additional Information

Artist Cat Power
Track Listing 1. New York 2. Ramblin' (Wo)man 3. Metal Heart 4. Silver Stallion 5. Aretha, Sing One For Me 6. Lost Someone 7. Lord, Help The Poor & Needy 8. I Believe In You 9. Song To Bobby 10. Don't Explain 11. Woman Left Lonely 12. Blue

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