Monday, February 18, 2008

Cool Cat

I'm really digging the new Cat Power record, Jukebox. It's not a gigantic step forward from The Greatest, which in the eyes of most critics who have written about the album means that it's not as worthy of praise. I, however, beg to differ. As much as I liked The Greatest, some of her songs don't lend themselves to the hushed style of that album. It's the same problem people have with Bright Eyes' newer stuff. It's hard to change the way you write songs. Whereas The Greatest was deliberately slick at times, Jukebox feels comfortable and natural, like she's been playing with these songs since she was a girl. And that's just what she's doing, playing with the songs. She turns "New York" from a Sinatra standard into what I'm sure will become one of her signature tunes. And she turns George Jackson's "Aretha, Sing One For Me" an album high point. She moves fluidly from country to soul to jazz, and the songs she's picked to cover are really inspired choices. And her version of Dylan's "I Believe in You" absolutely kills. Having heard a number of shitty Dylan covers in my day, I understand how hard it can be to cover his tunes well. Makes me wish I hadn't ditched her set at Bonnaroo two years ago.


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