Cat Power

By - Feb 1st, 2008 02:52 pm

Everyone loved her 15 seconds of “How Can I Tell You” in that diamonds commercial. That’s just too bad, since a full-length version isn’t on Jukebox, Chan Marshall’s second CD of cover songs since 2000.

Backed by the Dirty Delta Blues band, Marshall keeps things sparse as usual and swaths the songs with her signature rasp. Also typical is her inclusion of another Dylan tune, “I Believe in You.” By now, Marshall has the icon’s panache down pat. “A Song to Bobby,” the only new song on the disc, even details a humbled admiration of the songwriter.

Homage is one reason to cover a song, but are there others? That thought recurs when song choice seems mismatched (“Aretha, Sing One For Me”) and when justice isn’t paid to the classics. “Theme from New York, New York,” Hank Williams’ “Ramblin’ Man,” and Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” — all songs of rebellion and conviction originally — are neutered by Marshall’s lethargy. (“Silver Stallion,” however, canters along appropriately in this sleepy state.)

“Metal Heart,” written during a restless night in 1999 for Cat Power’s Moon Pix and revised for Jukebox, invigorates the album; it’s the strongest and most expressive of the twelve tracks. It is her own, and she sings it like she owns it — an important dynamic missing from the rest.

There isn’t a jukebox on earth that could compile a better A-to-Z of music appreciation, but this record has nothing to say. Use your Jukebox quarters for laundry instead.

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