A Cat Power covers album has become something of a regular occasion now – in between Chan Marshall’s own eight albums of original material, she’s also released three volumes of her own takes on songs that are very personal to her, often drastically different to the original.
Following The Covers Album in 2000 and 2008’s Jukebox, we now have Covers, which pretty much does what it says on the tin. Like the last two albums, the track listing is a mix of well known songs (such as The Pogues‘ A Pair Of Brown Eyes and Here Comes A Regular by The Replacements) together with some more surprising selections.
For example, if you ever wanted to hear a new take on the anti-Wall Street anthem Pa Pa Power by Hollywood superstar Ryan Gosling’s side project Dead Man’s Bones, then step this way. And if you ever wondered what a Frank Ocean song sounded like stripped down in Marshall’s inimitable fashion, Covers is the album to listen to.
As ever with these type of records, the quality can vary. While Bad Religion (the aforementioned Ocean song) is ghostly, eerie and very affecting, Marshall’s rendition of A Power Of Brown Eyes is less so. It takes a brave person to cover a Pogues song, considering how much they’re imbued with Shane MacGowan‘s personality, and Marshall’s icy delivery contrasts badly with the sheer emotion of the original.
More successful is Lana Del Rey‘s White Mustang – there are stylistically more than a few similarities between Marshall and Del Rey, and to hear the former take this track from 2017’s Lust For Life feels like a symbolic blessing.
As ever with Marshall’s covers, some are quite faithful to the others, while others are completely stripped down. Jackson Browne’s Covers, probably the most well known song on the album, is relatively faithful, and is a lovely, warm rendition, while The Replacements’ Here Comes A Regular (a song which Marshall remembers as spending her last dollar to listen to on a jukebox in New York) replaces Paul Westerberg’s plaintively strummed acoustic with her own stately piano chords. It doesn’t quite have the emotional impact of the original, but Westerberg’s song writing genius still shines through.
There’s also a bluesy take on the Iggy Pop album track The Endless Sea, while the closing track, Marshall’s rendition of Billie Holiday‘s I’ll Be Seeing You, is almost dripping in sadness. Perhaps the most intriguing track though is Unhate, a new version of Marshall’s own Hate from The Greatest album – here, the hazy bleakness of the original is replaced by a driving, clear-eyed delivery, in a version that surpasses the version on The Greatest.
As ever with Marshall’s covers project, it’s a mixed bag, but there’s more than enough here to keep Cat Power fans satisfied until her next album of original material comes along.