Cat Power, Jukebox

Cat Power, Jukebox

The theme from “New York, New York” couldn’t possibly be the same old cornball, oft-played cliché, could it? The drum intro, “boom-boom-SHACK da-boom-boom-SHACK,” drags you right up to the doorstep of “Start spreading the news…” Cat Power’s Chan Marshall conjures up a spirit and a vibe which can phrase those words into really something savory. Well, whaddya know — those tired old lines do still have some juice left in them! That’s the sign of a real pro, that’s the sign of really something special: to be able to take something quite ordinary and ubiquitous and make it fresh. Jukebox is just that, with Cat Power’s two original compositions amongst the cover songs (which very well could slip on by you if you didn’t know any better). Due to Chan’s band, the choice of compositions, and the skill and style in which they’re treated, the album adds up to the first great release of 2008.

“Rambling (Wo)man” was the first song I’ve heard and was instantly my favorite on the album. There’s a spaciousness in its feel; a slinky pace, an ease of execution — no rush. The moans of the guitar, the constant rasp of the ride cymbal, the fender Rhodes, all work together with Chan’s sultry vocal delivery. The refrain, “I love you, I love you baby,” is sung so soulfully, in so heartfelt a way, it all makes sense.

“Metal Heart” plods with spacious piano to a slow-burn refrain. Aching guitar lines echo through until its zenith and then on to its bitter end. Songs like “Silver Stallion” take on the blues and wear ’em proud. “Aretha, Sing One for Me” stumbles in with a swagger worthy of the Stones, all chunky guitar and singing Hammond organ with chimes of Rhodes piano. Pleas and utterances of heartache and loneliness that are unforgettable. “Lost Someone” is a foray into gentle, country sway, with all the power and R&B vibe that’s rife throughout this album. It all works so well.

There are no fragments here, and no filler. There is a strand of songs, each reaching, yearning, and lovely in their own way. Touches of rock, blues, country, and R&B appear, each treated differently enough so that it holds your interest but pushes you further along, deeper. Of course, that’s Cat Power’s territory, and a skill that Marshall seemingly masters more with each album.

It’s fully evident that Cat Power/Chan Marshall knows where her strengths lie, and her vulnerability is definitely an asset. This amount of honesty and real-ness is found from cover to cover; not one dull spot. Jukebox is a glistening piece of work: powerful interpretation combined with stellar songcraft and performance.

(Matador Records -- 304 Hudson St. 7th Floor, New York, NY. 10013; http://www.matadorrecords.com/; Cat Power -- http://www.myspace.com/catpower)
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Friday, January 25th, 2008. Filed under Reviews.

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