The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Chan Marshall is the Cat’s meow on ‘Jukebox’

Name dropping Chan Marshall won’t get you into clubs any faster. It won’t spark immediate conversation with your dreamboat and it definitely won’t cure today’s hangover. But it should.

And why not? A veteran of the New York-hipster, singer-songwriter scene, Marshall has been perfecting her brand of ethereal bone-bearing pop under the Cat Power moniker for over a decade. Now with the release of “Jukebox,” Marshall makes her second foray into the often troubled waters of the cover album.

With an ear for potential almost as impressive as her girl-next-door looks, the tunes on “Jukebox” find Marshall covering everyone from Sinatra to Hank Williams. And for once, here is a covers album that has no qualms about precisely preserving the original material. Instead of frolicking through New York with the enthusiasm of a drama major belting out show tunes, “New York, New York” embodies the dark and seductive spirit of the streets. Marshall’s voice soulfully sways in the night’s breeze and caresses enigmatic organ rhythms and sparse guitar work like the hands of a lover.

This, in essence, is half of the “Jukebox” charm. Less is more. Arrangements such as “Lord, Help The Poor and Needy” stand on little more than Marshall’s silky croon and introspective, soft finger-picking. Raw aesthetics and straightforward interpretation allow this kitten’s meow to pack the punch of a roar.

While this technique succeeds unquestionably in some songs, other tracks, such as the wandering “Woman Left Lonely” begin to sound like little more than an afterthought. The lack of life, passion or much progression to this tune is almost ironic, considering the song’s original performer was Janis Joplin. But on a record, with this free flowing with experimentation into alternate themes and meanings in delivery and song structure, a few misses are to be expected.

Although this isn’t to say that all of Marshall’s covers rely on totally reworking the artist’s material. In fact, some of the album’s best songs embrace it. “Silver Stallion,” the album’s strongest cover, finds ghostly steel guitar and grit against the twang of acoustic strumming, creating the soundtrack to a southern sunset. Marshall takes this Highwaymen classic and tames it into the brokenhearted, on-the-road ballad it was always meant to be. Similarly, “I Believe In You” transforms a sleepily southern Dylan footnote into a ’70s country rock-fueled fusion with a chorus so dreamy you’ll think it’s holy work.

By the time this “Jukebox” has stopped spinning, it’s hard to deny there’s still something missing. While some standout songs are easily worth the price of the record, others, such as the weakly re-envisioned “Metal Heart,” an old Cat Power tune, lack long-term strength and seem to fade into mediocrity without much fight. What about Marshall herself? She’s still got enough spunk in her to last through infinite albums and eons. While her name may never grant wild wishes like other celebrities, “Jukebox” proves that even when this lioness is a little off her game, her voice always will.

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