Release Date: Dec 9, 2008
Record label: Matador
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
The idea of a cover album makes sense. It is sometimes easy to forget that artists are also fans, so it's logical that they would want to emulate the people who inspire them to make music. More often than not, the cover album is the remit of those who don't really have much talent of their own (see Mandy Moore's Coverage), but in some cases -- especially in Chan Marshall's -- artists use covers to dress themselves up in a different skin.
Cat Power (a.k.a. Chan Marshall) is perhaps a more divisive figure than her music would suggest. Whilst possessing one of the most recognisable and distinctive voices in indie-rock, her recent career choices have alienated some. 2006’s The Greatest was undoubtedly an accomplished record, yet its polish grated against Marshall’s earlier, rawer material.
Paul Simon and Chan Marshall—Cat Power, that is—share one thing. I remember Paul Simon, in interviews around the time Surprise was released, talked a lot about how his music is primarily an exercise in creating and perfecting sonic atmospheres. However more sophisticated his musical vocabulary, Marshall has demonstrated, especially on her covers records, a kinship with this objective.
There's no good reason to record a classic tune unless you can bring something new to it. Simply slowing down the tempo and clumsily square-pegging alternate lyrics when you forget the words isn't really sufficient. That's not to say that Chan Marshall's ballsy attempt to take on Dark End Of The Street - Dan Penn's exquisitely rendered hymn to forbidden love - is particularly horrid.