Cat Power

Clear the Room

I don’t even know where to begin with this ridiculous photo, but I guess that I picked it to point out how far this artist has gone astray. Her last album of originals, The Greatest, features one of the best things she has ever written. The title track is a moving tribute to Muhammad Ali that transforms Chan Marshall into an honest to goodness soul singer. Now, many of her songs have soul, but this one smoothly became a paean to the power of determination in the face of adversity. This one song made me believe that this woman really could be a more ragged Dusty Springfield.

Sadly, the rest of the album was kind of disappointing. The followup to The Covers Album, Jukebox, was a red hot mess. If you take a closer look, all of her albums are a mix of excellence and mediocrity. However, there a few songs on all of her albums that achieve brilliance. She always had a charismatic voice and a knack for examining the more depressing points of our existence, but it never added up to a great album. However, I always loved her husky, knowing vocals and it served her well on The Covers Album which allowed her the opportunity to deconstruct tunes by Michael Hurley, Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. Everything is slowed to crawl and she wrenches every ounce of emotion from this established material. It wasn’t an easy task, but she did it with grace and innovation.

I picked this collection since it echoes the successes of The Covers Album and includes versions of Oasis, Thurston Moore and Lynyrd Skynyrd tunes. Some of these are from Peel sessions and I prefer this bootleg to a few of her actual albums. It is a loosey goosy run through her favorite songs and includes unreleased tracks as well. It’s a bit messy, but her performances are earnest and on point.