Chan Marshall, aka [a]Cat Power[/a], hails from the same parched singer/ songwriting terrain as [a]Smog[/a]. Rather than engage in another bout of potentially self-indulgent miserablism, she’s decided on her fifth album to apply her minimalist approach to other people’s songs.
‘The Covers Record’ features some obscure material – two songs by little-known Greenwich Village songwriter Michael Hurley, for instance, ‘Devil’s Daughter’ and ‘Swee Dee Dee’ – but the album works best when you’re familiar with the original songs and understand what she’s doing to them.
On the Stones‘ ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’, for instance, she’s dropped both Keef‘s riff and the chorus, pacing through the less familiar terrain of the verses, as if through a rock’n’roll ghost town, giving an entirely different take on the song. Her version of The Velvet Underground‘s ‘I Found A Reason’, cleared of smoke and stripped of its shades, exposes the naked strength and beauty of the original. Her stark, unhistrionic rendering of ‘Wild Is The Wind’, meanwhile, compares well with David Bowie‘s more affected version.
With her distressed, Southern-inflected vocals and guitar/piano accompaniments tolling like perpetual church bells, Cat Power brings these songs successfully into her own, bleak domain. Spend too much time here, however, and you might need an emergency injection of Kool & The Gang.