Cat Power – Covers: Peerless vocal reshaping of songs

Fri, Jan 14, 2022, 05:01

   
 

Album:
Covers

Artist:
Cat Power

Label:
Domino

Genre:
Singer / Songwriter

This third album of reinterpretations by Chan Marshall has been pulled from childhood (Billie Holiday’s wistful I’ll Be Seeing You) to the present day (Frank Ocean’s galvanising Bad Religion), with her peerless vocal reshaping songs to often surprising effect.

It is emblematic of how, like many great interpreters, she can successfully reach into others’ work to draw further nuance. Interestingly, she takes this moment to reappraise one of her own songs, Unhate – a reworking of Hate from 2006’s The Greatest, where radiance pulls focus and buries the previous composition, evolving it to an exercise in resilience.

Bright guitars

The whole record benefits from this exercise – from the bright guitars of Pa Pa Power, to the stridency of Endless Sea, and the bluesy It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels. There is harmonic deep-sea diving on These Days, and a tenderness to Here Comes a Regular, harnessing the delicate tightrope walk that is finding meaning in the everyday.

An impulse to recover what is lost haunts these songs, through the driving piano of Against the Wind, and the boldness of I Had a Dream Joe, it is hard to know if Marshall is possessed, or the song. Perhaps both.

A Pair of Brown Eyes, which reminds Marshall of a friend lost to cancer, is a devastating highlight, with off-kilter drums and her nourishing voice matching Shane McGowan’s lyricism, flooring us with its sense of raw, but graceful pain.