Artist

Cat Power

Cat Power

The smoky-voiced chanteuse Chan Marshall has been recording under the name Cat Power since the mid-1990s. After starting out as an angsty troubadour known for lo-fi accompaniment and her distinct set of pipes, Cat Power has evolved into a sophisticated songwriter and energetic interpreter of classic Americana.

Early releases Dear Sir and Myra Lee, recorded on the same day in 1994, present a blend of moody, cavernous singing and repetitive song structures. Cat Power’s 1996 debut for Matador, What Would Community Think?, featured an eerie cover of Smog’s “Bathysphere” and showed that Marshall had improved as a songwriter, but it was 1998’s Moon Pix that really put Cat Power on the map. That album, strong from start to finish, was recorded with members of Australia’s Dirty Three and showcased Cat Power’s diversity -- as Marshall veered from cluttered anthems (“American Flag”) to noir-ish blues (“Moonshiner”) to poignant, beautiful ballads (“Colors and the Kids”).

After Moon Pix, things didn’t go so well personally for Marshall, though her career continued to be on the up and up. She fought alcohol addiction and gained notoriety for on-stage meltdowns and cutting shows short when not skipping them entirely. In 2000, Cat Power released The Covers Record, the first in a number of releases where Marshall would radically reinterpret American standards, both new (Smog’s “Red Apples”) and old (The Rolling Stones’ “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction”). The more conventional alt-rock of You Are Free came in 2003, and on the album the power of Marshall’s singing and the clarity of her songwriting increased by leaps and bounds. That record included the stirring tribute to Kurt Cobain, “I Don’t Blame You,” the “Candle in the Wind” of '90s indie.

During the second half of the decade, Cat Power tapped into her Southern roots (she was born in Georgia) and found new life as a 21st-century soul queen. In 2006 she recorded The Greatest with Memphis session musicians, which her brought to a whole new segment of the music-listening public and earned her some of the best reviews of her career. She seemed to conquer stage fright, and her live performances became something of a hot ticket. Another album of
covers, Jukebox, came out in 2008. ~Wilson McBee

 


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