Dance, ceremony, sound wallpaper – the uses of music are innumerable. Often times, though, distress is the key, a kind of aural embrace that you could raise to the 10th power when it comes to cover versions.
It would be limiting to launch Cat powerAll three albums of other people’s songs as mere public acts of self-comfort: Chan Marshall, born in Georgia, experienced in New York, and resident in Miami, with three decades in the game, is far too versatile and astute a musician for that. He has eight albums of his own soft-touch enchantment under his belt and a particular aesthetic of his own.
Her sense of space, the way she overdubs and superimposes her voice, her penchant for trance repetition and the vaporous veils she places between the listener and her band instruments, her midlife repositioning as a soul singer from Soothing warmth – Everything attests to Marshall’s style. continuous artistic imperatives and technical nous.
But through The roof register (2000), Jukebox (2008) and now CoversThere is a sense that, for Marshall, other people’s songs provide not only tunes to tune, but also sustenance and a sense of companionship. These tracks seem to be the auditory companions of a life that has rarely been straightforward, even by the standards of traveling musicians: episodes of ill health, a breakdown. Marshall may have always performed multiple tracks on his voice to make him feel less lonely. Now, she also has a particularly soundtrack: veterans of her outstanding 2018 album, Homeless – making this album the best played and possibly the most elegant of the series.
If there’s a running theme in this set of diverse covers, it’s probably drinking. By her own admission, Marshall spent the early to mid-2000s “living inside a bottle.” About Covers, poured into a couple of famous barfly wails. It takes a lot of courage to face the Pogues; Marshall assumes A pair of brown eyes, in which two men are destroyed by alcohol, lost love and the vicissitudes of war, armed only with a Mellotron and a pair of microphones. Their own backing vocals maintain a thread of the song’s link to Irish folk.
Here comes a regular by the Replacements, by contrast, was at the jukebox at Mona’s, the East Village bar that Marshall frequented when he was 20 years old. This version of Cat Power ditches guitar for piano, making a very sad song about being a regular: the anti-Health, so to speak, even more stripped down.
Fortunately, this pair of songs comes at a time when the singer’s fortunes have been on the rise, fueled by the success of Homeless, its rebirth. Left behind by her old label, Marshall found a new one, then garnered mainstream accolades and received generous dues and endorsements from a slew of artists.
She has been together with Lana Del Rey for some time, a sisterhood reflected in Covers in Marshall’s rendition of Del Rey’s 2017 track White mustang. The only downside is that there are few artistic surprises.
Until Woman – Cat Power’s 2018 female track featuring Del Rey on backing vocals – Marshall rarely mentioned the genre in a timely manner. Here, [ONLINE ONLY] She also covers the extraordinary It wasn’t God who made Honky Tonk Angels, from post-war country star Kitty Wells, as a sneaky, bluesy roll. Although Marshall’s affection for the song dates back to childhood, he is also famous. Written by a man, JD Miller, but owned by Wells, the song despaired that women would always be blamed for men’s infidelity. In 1952 he led Wells to the top of the Billboard country music charts, the first woman to get there solo, amid considerable unrest from the music establishment. Once again, the pedal steel and steady bass beat preserve the song’s country roots.
It would be unreasonable to complain that a Cat Power album sounds too much like a Cat Power album, especially when this could be the most comprehensive and sophisticated of their three tribute outings. Marshall’s tendency to abbreviate and deconstruct songs is one of his outstanding assets as a performer. Witness this album’s excellent title track, Frank Ocean’s Bad religion, or previously, in Jukebox, her cut version of Rihanna To stay. However, Nick Cave’s pointillist version of Marshall I had a dream joe, just emphasizing certain lines of the song’s narrative, doesn’t land as convincingly as it should.
This record is not exactly the same. The distance traveled between Cave’s deck or Iggy Pop’s deck The endless sea – all prodigiously omen – and I’ll Be Seeing You, the final lament that Billie Holiday made famous, is not insignificant. But the prevailing atmosphere remains one of nostalgia, of lives that take only many left turns. All of this is perhaps not surprising, given Marshall’s backstory long ago and the events of the last 20 months or so. Yes Homeless promised bolder artistic statements, Covers revolves around much needed understanding. That feeling is transmitted in turn to the listener: hugs in abundance.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism