Chan Marshall is known for being a little unhinged – as anyone who has seen one of her rather unpredictable live shows will testify. Yet, over her 14 year career this connection with her more eccentric side, combined with some seriously smokey vocals, has resulted in the making of some of indie music’s most beguiling and beautiful records.
The last time that Marshall released a covers album was in 2000, the rather unimaginatively titled The Covers Record. It took her music to the mainstream via a much talked about version of (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, and followed the critical success of 1998′s Moon Pix.
Since then, she’s kicked the drink and drug habits, calmed the kooky behaviour down a notch, and thrilled die-hards and newcomers alike with You Are Free and The Greatest – the latter of which went on to win the Shortlist Music Prize in 2006, the title track even appearing on an episode of US drama Bones and quite bizarrely a Garnier hair ad. Much has recently been made of her appointment as a model for Chanel, but as latest offering Jukebox proves, one thing the talented lady will not compromise on is her music.
This eighth album is a beautifully, bluesy triumph from start to finish, and Marshall’s vocals are simply sublime, woozily carrying melodies over some hugely impressive musicianship from backing band The Dirty Delta Blues.
One new track features – the poignant and compelling Song To Bobby – alongside a new version of Metal Heart (a previous rendition appeared on Moon Pix) and covers of tracks made famous by Frank Sinatra, Hank Williams, James Brown, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Billie Holiday, Joni Mitchell, The Highwaymen, Jessie Mae Hemphill and Janis Joplin. The totally fresh treatment and subtle arrangements breathes new life into these works, and makes for some quite remarkable listening..
But then what did you expect? This Georgia-born vocalist has showed no signs of slowing down artistically since she first unleashed her stark early recordings way back in 1994, but it’s heartening to hear that she remains artistically unchanged by her growing celebrity.
Marshall may appear more stylish, her striking face and poker straight hair gracing many more magazine covers than it used to, but the music making is clearly totally safe in her hands, and anyone predicting a creative nosedive any time soon should be in for a very long wait.