Cat Power seduces with raw and intimate covers

covers (Domino)
cat power
★★★★

Cat Power has always worn her heart on her sleeve, being a teacher of emotional, intricate singing and poetic directness. It has managed to seduce listeners with its sweet, melancholy and healing embrace for more than 30 years, while protecting their privacy. It’s a seductive combination, drawing us in while maintaining its mystery and allowing listeners the freedom to tune its lyrics and mood to their personal calibration.

With covers, Power (stage name of Charlyn Marie “Chan” Marshall) completes his trilogy of album covers, following Jukebox (2008) and The record of covers (2000). His eleventh album, which coincides with his 50th birthday, harks back to songs that struck a chord in his youth, and others released in the past decade that remind him of his lost loved ones.

Sensual and bluesy sound: Cat Power.Credit:mario sorrentino

Power fans will have their favorite album. Either moon photo (1998), recorded with members of the Dirty Three, or Sun (2012). My entry point into his music was moon photoThe atmospheric and darkly melodic single crossbones style, which fused psychedelic folk with gothic hymn-singing. That same melancholic alchemy transforms the songs of Nick Cave, Iggy Pop and Billie Holiday into unmistakably Power-esque anthems in covers.

His delicate piano ballad version of the Frank Ocean song bad religion it’s a spare gospel song. His delivery is intimately confessional; stripped of heavy beats and production tricks, it’s as if Power is singing a steamy lullaby. It’s organic, sparse, and compelling; each crystal clear lyric, highlighting Ocean’s skillful poetry as storyteller.

Cat Power's new album.

Cat Power’s new album.

Power has the ability to emphasize elements of the original songs through re-interpretation. To that end, Dead Man’s Bones’ Bye it’s built around warm ’70s-style folk guitar over the steady march of drums. When he half moans “Po-er!” it is more a wounded cry than a fierce demand.

Her earthier voice sounds determined by white mustang (where Lana Del Rey’s original featured her distinctive hyper-feminine daydream). Here, Del Rey’s hazy, downbeat trip-hop morphs into a more rock-and-folk beast with a carefree guitar tune that’s equal parts raucous and sexy. It’s good, but not a patch on its Kitty Wells cover. A Pioneer Woman of Country Music, Wells’s 1952 Classic It wasn’t God who made the Honky Tonk angels (also covered by Dolly Parton) is all sneaky, deep bass and finger-click percussion. Power’s tired, knowing voice croons, “Too many times married men think they’re single, and that’s caused a lot of good girls to go wrong.” Delivered with a sprinkle of bluegrass, grit, and a grin, it’s beautiful.

In a different way, so is Cave’s. i had a dream joe, which turns into a prog-rock jam of thumping drums, roaring, vigorous guitar, and the desperate chorus: “I Had a Dream, Joe… I opened my eyes and there you were.” She has redone the gothic storm and stress and magnified the restlessness of living between wakefulness and ghosts.

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