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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Usually, when a highly regarded artist like Cat Power releases an album of covers, any reasonable analysis will load up on derisive quips and cheeky one-liners referencing bar bands, karaoke or Axl Rose impersonators.

Usually, it's because cover collections disappoint.

But Chan Marshall, as she is known off stage, throws "usually" out the window with "Jukebox."

Taking tracks from artists as disparate as James Brown and Joni Mitchell, the singer-songwriter behind the Cat Power moniker somehow molds one original and a host of aged relics into a congruous blues dirge.

Such a transformation wouldn't be possible without a seasoned backing band.

Enter soulful indie vets Jim White (drums), Matt Sweeney and Judah Bauer (guitars).

On "Aretha, Sing One for Me," the three crank out an effortless groove that would make the Stones proud. Indeed, vocals aside, this track along with "I Believe in You," wouldn't sound out of place at all on "Let It Bleed."

The lone original, "Song for Bobby," sticks out not only because it's a Marshall composition, but also because its quiet acoustics and lyrical phrasing recall the source of its inspiration.

The other Marshall piece, a cover of her own "Metal Heart," regrettably trades ghostly lead guitar for a less immediate piano line, but all misfires should be this successful.

If "Jukebox" turned out as expected, this review would end with "You'd expect a little more from 'The Greatest'," or "When will Cat Power come out from under the covers?"

So much for cheeky one-liners.

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