Last night, after a good meal at The Bowery in Hollywood, I saw Cat Power (aka Chan (pronounced Sean) Marshall) at the Avalon. She performed with the Dirty Delta Blues.
She's got a second Covers album taxiing on the runway for Jan 2008 liftoff, and many of the songs she performed seem destined for that release. Two highlights: a couple songs into her set, a cover of Patsy Cline's "She's Got You," and later, one of my favorites, "Dark End of the Street." I can't find an MP3 of Marshall covering either, but if anyone has one, I'd be greatly indebted if they could pass it along to tide me over until the CD hits next year. In the meantime, you can find the Patsy Cline at any number of places like Amazon or iTunes, and there are a gazillion covers of "Dark End of the Street."
I wish I could list off all the other songs she covered, but one of the things that makes her one of the best cover artists around is also the thing that makes her covers so difficult to identify: Chan makes the melody and tempo and cadence of the songs her own (though still preserving their emotional marrow). Making song identification even trickier last night was the inconsistent sound mix. At times, I had no idea what she was saying because her voice was drowned out by guitars, and a few times her mic just plain cut out. Someone with sharper hearing and an encyclopedic knowledge of musical lyrics may have her full set list. If I find it I'll link to it here.
But back to that Cat Power voice. That voice. It's a gift, and it works best with minimal dressing, simpler arrangements that let it carve aural contrails in the air. Maybe just a piano, a dollop of guitar, and a small serving of bass on the side.
The keyboardist, some guy named Greg who Cat Power introduced as "Mr. Beautiful," was another stage distraction. He looked like a cross between Tommy Lee and Criss Angel and played the keyboards with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth. Every time Marshall threw attention his way, he preened. How could a keyboardist have so much attitude? I kept hoping he'd hiccup and swallow his smoke.