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    Jukebox ( 2008 )
    New York / Ramblin' (Wo)man / Metal Heart / Silver Stallion / Aretha, Sing One For Me / Lost Someone / Lord, Help The Poor & Needy / I Believe In You / Song To Bobby / Don't Explain / Woman Left Lonely / Blue

    Cat Power's Chan Marshall has had a lengthy career now attracting adoration from a small, yet devoted audience along the way. 'Jukebox' is the 2nd covers album of her career, the first being issued back in 2000. Well, two originals are present here. She covers her own 'Metal Heart' and also composes a sincere tribute to Dylan and tells a story of how she very nearly met him. 'Song To Bobby' is easily the best song here by a country mile and that it's also her only new original may well just reveal how apparently lazy the rest of the album is. Oh, don't get me wrong. It's clear some thought has at least gone into the sound of the album. There's echo on her voice as if she's singing gospel in a church hall. The instrumental backing is nearly always mid-tempo, playing simple lines, sometimes overly chunky as far as the rhythm section is concerned. It's an intimate, soulful setting for her voice however, which as usual, sounds absolutely hauntingly superb. A questions lingers over you once you've listened to the album a dozen or so times, what exactly is the point of it all? She doesn't really shed any new light on songs by Sinatra, George Jackson, Dylan, Billie Holiday or Joni Mitchell. Still, she does rhythm and blues, she does jazzy things full of smoke, so much so, you can hardly see. The focus is plainly on her voice, 'Blue' for instance has some nice vibes, organ and piano although it's very sparse backing. Her voice is slow, deep, dare I say genuinely soulful yet as the song fades, the question comes back to you. Was that it?

    The better moments on the LP are really very fine and demonstrate that perhaps 'Jukebox' is just a holding excersize until she gets the juices flowing enough to release a really distinctive album of original songs. 'Silver Stallion' is stripped right back to just acoustic guitar. She drops the soul and drops the smoke and just sings and it's a welcome change from all the smoke and mirrors production this LP generally lends us. What else? Well, we get a sort of Dylan thing going on towards the end of the LP. She treats Dylan's religious period to a fiery treatment as 'I Believe In You' gets raw power-chords ( of sorts ) jumping out at us. Ah, ok, it's still mid-tempo, but at least she sounds passionate here. 'Don't Explain' is transformed from the Billie Holiday jazz number we know it as. This is spine-chillingly great stuff, Catpower's vocal over music which promises much menance although tantilising just holds off is a clever trick. None of this would amount to anything however were it not for 'Song To Bobby'. The sound which sometimes seems misplaced elsewhere on the LP suddenly makes perfect sense, as if built alone for this one song. The band build up the song gently and rather beautifully, bringing to my mind the sort of carefully crafted beauty present in Nick Drake's 'Northern Sky'. 'Song To Bobby' seems sincere and it sounds superb and is superb. It doesn't manage to make any more sense of the LP as a whole, but at least along with 'Don't Explain' manages to inject some genuine class and inspiration into an otherwise so-so album length outing.

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    this page last updated 27/03/08

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