Between her onstage breakdowns and eccentric interviews, Cat Power seemed to be on a one-way trip to VH1's Celebrity Rehab. But ever since embracing her Southern roots by enlisting a number of Memphis sidemen on 2006's The Greatest, the singer-songwriter born Chan Marshall has apparently banished any lingering demons. Her latest effort is an apparent sequel to 2000's The Covers Record. But rather than use rhythm-and-blues hired hands, she's recruited the Dirty Delta Blues Band, an ad-hoc crew featuring members of the Dirty Three, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and Chavez.
There's a definite Southern gothic aura that permeates these songs — lots of echo, ghostly twang, and Marshall's voice, which resonates despite often floating off into the ether. There are times when this approach falls short, such as her trying to exorcise images of the Chairman of the Board by wrapping the standard "New York, New York" in a spooky ambience, or turning James Brown's "Lost Someone" into a murder-ballad stroll. But elsewhere, Marshall shines, particularly in her nods to Bob Dylan. His "I Believe in You" is transformed from being a message of fealty to Marshall's own admiration of Dylan, while her self-penned "Song for Bobby" finds her using Dylan-like cadences that are more homage than imitation. The most telling difference is heard when Marshall resurrects "Metal Heart" off 1998's Moon Pix. Gnarlier than the meek original, this newer version is infused with a ghostly echo-laden guitar tone reminiscent of Neil Young's darker moments with Crazy Horse. (Matador)
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