‘The Covers Record’ – A Look Back at That Time Cat Power Dug Up Her Roots
Chan Marshall was finally getting somewhere. ‘Moon Pix,’ her fourth album as Cat Power, was a hit with indie-rock tastemakers in 1998, and now that people were paying attention, and devouring her back catalog, her next move was both somewhat baffling and totally fitting for an artist who’s never taken the easy way out.
For her fifth album, 2000’s ‘The Covers Record,’ Marshall gathered a dozen old songs, including one she wrote and spanning everything from traditional folk tunes to British Invasion classics, and accompanied herself on guitar and piano. Yes, one of indie rock’s brightest emerging singer-songwriters decided to follow up her breakthrough album with an LP filled with other artists’ songs. But at least Marshall was smart enough to not make ‘The Covers Record’ a karaoke collection. She spins the dozen tracks to her own melancholy worldview.
Need proof? Start with her take on the Rolling Stones’ sexual-frustration classic ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,’ which she turns into a mournful acoustic plea for some sort of life connection. Many artists have covered the Stones staple over the years – from Devo’s computer-age short circuit to Britney Spears’ brain-dead club anthem – but no one had ever thought to strip it to its bare essentials. There’s more at stake here than just a quick hit of some girlie action.
Marshall pulls similarly at the other songs, transforming the Velvet Underground’s ‘I Found a Reason’ into a lovely piano ballad. She finds inspiration in the 1950s movie song ‘Wild Is the Wind’ from Nina Simone and David Bowie’s versions and makes the 1959 No. 1 R&B hit ‘Sea of Love’ sound like a requiem for a dead love.
‘The Covers Record’ didn’t chart, but Cat Power’s next album, 2003’s ‘You Are Free,’ became her first commercial semi-hit (it peaked at No. 105). While ‘The Covers Record’ was originally seen as a temporary break from original material for the emotionally fragile Marshall to get her head straight, her cover songs have become a popular outlet for Cat Power. A few cuts were licensed for movie soundtracks, and in 2008 she recorded another covers album, ‘Jukebox.’ That one’s pretty good too.
Listen to Cat Power’s ‘I Found a Reason’