It’s hard to think of a 21st-century artist who’s done better work with that pop-music staple the cover song than Chan Marshall, who records under the name Cat Power. Beginning with her brilliant 2000 CD The Covers Album and continuing with her latest release, Jukebox, Marshall has turned imitation into art.
On Jukebox, she is all over the American songbook, from Joni Mitchell (a jazzy, organ-drenched “Blue”) to Lee Clayton (a gorgeously mournful “Silver Stallion”) to Kander and Ebb’s “New York, New York” (yes, that “New York, New York”).
What makes Marshall so special is her spookily acute understanding of what a cover song should be: familiar enough to draw the listener in but different enough to seem original, a perfect balance between recognizability and joyous surprise. And then there’s her glorious voice — smoky yet clear, languid yet emotional . . . in a word, inimitable.
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