Release Date: Jan 22, 2008
Record label: Matador
Review by Travis Woods.
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.
Sure, Chan Marshall went all the way to Memphis to record a Cat Power album with the Hi Rhythm Section only to have all the soulful bits mixed out in post-production, but any knucklehead could’ve done that. It takes a special artiste to follow that up with an album recorded in New York, Dallas and Miami with an entirely different cast of musicians to sound like it was recorded in Memphis by the Hi Rhythm crew. And that’s only the beginning of the entertainment on the Jukebox deluxe covers album.
Before Chan Marshall’s famously uneven live performances were scrutinized as a window into her fragile psyche, before she started hawking for Chanel and it was deemed important to know her preferred brand of heels (Christian Louboutin – hat tip The New Yorker), Cat Power was mostly just a voice – an arresting voice, unmistakably Southern, preternaturally haunting. On the earliest records – still and probably forever her best – that voice claws at locked doors (“We All Die”), seethes at enigmatic aggressors (“Nude As The News”), and moans in weary resignation (“Ice Water”). Framed by Tim Foljahn’s splintered chords and Steve Shelley’s drumming, records like Myra Lee and What Would the Community Think? are less a blueprint for Chan Marshall’s “mature” phase than harrowing, emotionally untenable shards littering the path to it.
Chan Marshall possesses one of music's most evocative voices even when she and her musical arrangements aren't always up to the material at hand. Jukebox follows the soulful turn of 2006's The Greatest, cueing up an uneven sequel to the hushed acoustics of 2000's The Covers Record. A slow funk opening courtesy of the Delta Blues Band digs its heel into "New York," Sinatra's bravado eviscerated by Marshall's smoky wanderlust.