Music Review: Cat Power's Jukebox

by Vincent Lee

Rarely does one expect much out of a cover record. Its typically one of three things: 1) A tribute album to an artist; 2) An attempt to recreate a group of random songs with the artist's own persona, usually failing; 3) Or something horrifically boring with no originality to speak of. With choices like this, it is rare to find a cover album worth listening to more than once. Cat Power's Jukebox is the second form, yet it is a surprising success.

The range of artists is very interesting. On the one hand you have folk artists such as Joni Mitchell, and Bob Dylan, then other ranged choices like Hank Williams and James Brown. Yet Cat Power (a.k.a. Charlyn "Chan" Marshall) manages to somehow fuse these various different elements into a consistent jazzy indie theme. None of the selections are especially popular. The most noted song is “I Believe In You,” a track off of Dylan's Slow Train Coming. The broad group of artists and songs adds some unique character to this cover album.

From top to bottom, this album is very solid and consistent. There is not a poor song to be found. Oddly enough, the standout song is the only original song, “Song to Bobby.” A soft song that takes advantage of Marshall's voice in several ways. On previous Cat Power records, Marshall would sometimes find herself too busy hewing to an indie ethos to explore her amazing vocals. She does not make that mistake on this album.

By no means is this album special or extraordinary. However, from top to bottom each song is solid and flows with amazing fluidity. Other than the aforementioned “Song to Bobby” the use of piano in coordination with Marshall's vocals stands out significantly. For a cover album, this is a standout. In general, the average indie rock fan should enjoy this as much as any other Cat Power album.

(Photo of Cat Power – Chan Marshall – by basic sounds via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License. To see Cat Power perform "Metal Heart" – which appears on both Jukebox and Moon Pix – in San Francisco in 1998, please check below.)

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