On the sequel to her 2000 album “The Covers Record,” Chan Marshall shows that when it comes to remaking the classics, she can soar where many artists fall flat. Performing under the name Cat Power, Marshall tackles an array of well known performers on “Jukebox.” From Billie Holiday, to Bob Dylan, to Janis Joplin, she proves that it’s possible to make a song your own without completely stripping its allure.
If you’re looking for a full-blown carbon copy of your favorites, this album isn’t for you. While the same lyrics remain, Marshall adds in her beloved indie rock and uniquely beautiful voice to create an almost unrecognizable track. She turns Frank Sinatra’s famous track “New York, New York” into a cool and collected blues tune, using a pulsating drum beat and slow streaming electric guitar. Cat Stevens’ love song “How Can I Tell You” is transformed into a light and airy fairytale, where Marshall’s voice soars above her lone companion – the piano. No matter which timeless tune she chooses to recreate, the outcome is a delightfully original version that is appealing nonetheless.
A particularly standout track on the album is the Bob Dylan song “I Believe in You.” Marshall channels Dylan himself, even slipping into his famous scratchy, somewhat toneless voice at times. With the incendiary guitar hooks and steady drum beats, she does the unthinkable by redoing the poet laureate of rock ‘n’ roll. After listening to this track, the similarities between the two artists become apparent. People may begin to see Marshall as Dylan’s protégé — a modern, female version of the famous artist.
Despite the amazing musicians covered on the album, the most unique track happens to be a Cat Power original. The song “Metal Heart” is redone on the album, which proves to be an impressive feat. Penned by the artist herself, the lyrics as well as the music hit some rather personal notes. With verses like “Losing the star without a sky/ Losing the reasons why/ You’re losing the calling that you’ve been faking/ And I’m not kidding,” we get a glimpse inside Marshall’s head and heart that is otherwise absent on the album. Although it is a collection of cover songs, she manages to prove that her true talent lies in her original work.
Whether coincidence or not, every track on the album seems to tell a similar story of the wandering character who hates to be in one place for too long. The song “Rambling Man” by Hank Williams is changed to “Rambling (Wo)man” which sings regret for the naturally free spirit of the singer. The Highwaymen’s “Silver Stallion” croons the lyrics “I’m gonna chase the sky forever,” while Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” reflects on a person met along the wandering trail. The pattern continues in some way with every song, which makes the album much more interesting. This also furthers the comparison to Bob Dylan, who often sang of the same reckless soul and winding road of life.
Overall the album is a pleasant surprise, with one downfall along the way. While it seems that Marshall has always been trying to prove herself as an artist, the recordings seem lackluster and a bit unprofessional. Some may see this as part of her charm; others may find it some-what ironic. For an artist who is known to cry on stage and complain that her music will never be good enough, it seems as if she would try a little harder. Luckily she is good enough, both vocally and instrumentally, to pull it off with grace. However, if its fame she yearns for, it may require a little more studio time and a lot more money.