Chan Marshall, who’s been performing as Cat Power since the mid-’90s (she adopted it from the name of her first band), refreshes even the most weathered patterns with her chimney voice. Though she’s amassed a tremendous catalog of soulful originals, she’s best known for refracting other artists’ radio hits and obscure B-sides through her singular lens. Earlier this year, Marshall released Blanketsspiritual counterpart to his desolate 2000 collection The cover disc and the Roaring Exit of 2008 Jukebox. The new disc compiles two original tracks plus ten renditions of songs from artists as diverse as Frank Ocean, the Pogues, Billie Holiday and Bob Seger.
Marshall challenges himself by synthesizing disparate eras and genres into a cohesive body of work, extracting dramatic moments from every track. His animated translation of “Pa Pa Power,” a ghostly anthem from Dead Man’s Bones (an old project by Ryan Gosling’s duo inspired by Disney’s Haunted Mansion), is a career highlight. She turns Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ 1992 track “I Had a Dream Joe” into macabre screed into a reverberating incantation, and she strips Iggy Pop’s sad late ’70s synth-fueled track “Endless Sea” until it becomes a slinky missive.
Marshall also gave himself the cover treatment. The cover disc presented a new version of “In This Hole”, from his 1996 album What would the community thinkand here she presents a reworking of “Unhate”, released in 2006 The best. The original is an anemic acoustic track, but Marshall turns the deep self-loathing of its verses into a triumphant claim of self, chanting “I hate myself and I want to die” until the words ring hollow and she sounds like she’s conquered her demons. Covers are often denigrated as exercises in pomp and laziness, and in less capable hands they are often little more than trim or B-sides. But Marshall sings with such conviction that every song on Blankets– whether she wrote the lyrics or not – could have been bleeding from her fingertips.
cat power Arsun opens. Wed 8/3, 8:30 p.m., Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport, $42.50-$75, ages 17 and up