Cat Power’s new CD great, but not ‘The Greatest’

Jackey Mantey

Cat Power

The Greatest

Released on Matador Records

Stater rating (out of five): ****

In Cat Power’s 2003 release, You Are Free, each song twisted listeners’ minds to somber, sometimes disturbing images, but all the while riveting and not removing the attention from her gruff, emotional voice. The rawness in her lyrics and sometimes painfully touching reminiscing could be felt through indie-rock iPods everywhere.

It is hard to imagine that the Atlanta native, who has been creating music for more than 10 years, could top the work of art she mastered in Free.

But she does not disappoint.

Like good wine, Chan Marshall’s music gets better with time, leaving only a tiny bitter taste in your mouth. And while still demanding attention, she uses a little less claw and a little more charm.

The songstress returned to Memphis to record the less-intense The Greatest. The opening title track is the most similar to past endeavors with slow piano and backup voices hauntingly repeating her.

The songs then present a more Southern, bluesy feel complete with the string-coated “Empty Shell” and “Lived in Bars,” which makes one feel like he or she should be donning poodle skirts and saddle shoes. The sock-hop feeling isn’t a good one, but easy to understand when looking at whom she hooked up with for the record.

Stepping away from low-amped hookups with Dave Grohl and Eddie Vedder in Free, Marshall chose the powers of Al Green’s guitarist and song writing cohort Mabon “Teenie” Hodges. He played guitar on the whole album.

Hodges’ soulful influences and Marshall’s piercing voice connect in a fury with “Where is my Love.” Slow piano chords and a violin solo bring to life the lyrics, “Where is my love/ Horses running free/ Carrying you and me.”

Whistling sequences and background piano piss-offs carry “After it All,” the most notable of Southern Blues songs on the record.

Even with these positive twists in The Greatest, some songs just go too far.

For example, “Islands” sounds like the beginning of a bad country song and “shoobitty bops” dispersed throughout the album get annoying.

Overall, credit goes to Marshall for getting back to her roots, and the unique sound and emotion of her voice paired with more instruments and style makes this album worth picking up.

Contact campus editor Jackie Mantey at [email protected].