Thursday, October 18, 2007

Recently Played: Cat Power, Hank Williams, George Jackson

Dude, I'm old. I've developed a dull indifference to new indie rock. Reading Pitchfork these days, I sometimes feel like I'm watching the WB. To paraphrase the wise Chinese monk, like a man with no arms, I can't hang. Band of Horses? Meh. Animal Collective? Sloppy music for an audience that couldn't make it through a Charalambides album. Jens Lekman? Frankly, I've never even heard the guy. Beirut? I'm dubious. But another covers album from Cat Power? I'm all up on the internets scouring for leaked tracks. I guess when it comes to new verse-chorus-verse guitar music, I'm not all that far from the Starbucks demographic. (Though not, I protest, so close as my brother Aaron is.)

Yes, January promises a new Cat Power LP, and I'm excited for it. Feels like college all over again. The new album will feature Chan Marshall (she whose work is sold under the “Cat Power” moniker) almost exclusively performing other people's music. The last time she did this, on The Covers Record, she made what I tend to think is her best work to date. That one was a very stark affair, but on the new one Chan Marshall will be backed by a rather meaty band. I do warn that the proposed art for this new album is thoroughly odious. Rest assured that I'll be plugging something more like the above pic into my iTunes cover art field.

Ah, but what songs will she be performing on the album? Well, the album title is Jukebox, and indeed, the tracklist reads like $3 worth of jukebox plays from a dive tavern of our collective American imagination or, when we're especially lucky, an uneventful Thursday night.

01) Theme From 'New York, New York' (popularized by Frank Sinatra/Liza Minnelli)
02) Metal Heart (Cat Power, a highlight of her 1998 Moon Pix album)
03) Ramblin' (Wo)man (Hank Williams)
04) Song To Bobby (a new Cat Power original)
05) Aretha, Sing One For Me (originally sung by George Jackson)
06) Lost Someone (the best James Brown song of all time)
07) I Believe In You (Bob Dylan)
08) Fortunate Son (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
09) Silver Stallion (Lee Clayton)
10) Dark End of the Street (originally sung by James Carr)
11) Don't Explain (Billie Holiday)
12) Woman Left Lonely (popularized by Janis Joplin)

In spite of the smell of $4 pitchers of Coors it may evoke, it's a mouth-watering set. Although one can't help but note the absence of “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.”

I envision a mournful, weary take on the indignant and entitled “Fortunate Son,” and I'm betting it'll be a show-stopper. But man, what is her “Lost Someone” gonna sound like? Now, one of these tracks I've already heard Chan tackle. For an early glimpse at how the new album might come off, compare Chan Marshall's solo version of “Ramblin' Man," performed on-air for KCRW last year, with Hank Williams' original.

Cat Power – Ramblin' Woman (KCRW Session, 2006)
Hank Williams – Ramblin' Man (1953)

You can get more of that radio session at eMusic and, if for no other reason than her gorgeous Otis Redding cover, I recommend you do.

Doubtless, a quick Google search would show this to be only the 125th blog posting those two mp3s. Ah, well. Such is life in Cent. 21. Probably you'll be able to find this song without much trouble too.

George Jackson – Aretha, Sing One For Me (1972)

Written by J. Harris and Eugene William and recorded for Hi Records, this song is new to me, and it's wonderful. (Already I'm enjoying the dividends of the new Cat Power record!) I feel I've said this before, but fans of the Wu-Tang will recognize it immediately. This time, the song figures heavily in Ghostface Killah's “Child's Play.” I'd post his song here, but it'd scandalize even our most liberal readers. So you'll just have to take me at my word when I tell you it's a five-star classic that draws exclusively from familiar hip-hop tropes, but seemed at the time, and in fact still seems, like an exciting, unexplored direction for rap music. Anyway, back to George Jackson.... Gorgeous keyboards, some weird strings that appear in the kind of super-clipped snatches that we'd later find peppered over so much 90s hip-hop. The title's “Aretha” refers of course to Aretha Franklin, whose music our post-breakup protagonist hopes will change his love's mind, “Make her sorry/ We are apart.” Not satisfied with mere name-checking, Jackson hazards blatant citation – again, the kind of thing hip-hop would later rely on – breaking at one point into a little sample of her knee-weakening “I Can't See Myself Leaving You” (about which, as chance would have it, I've already blogged). This is one of my favorite new finds.

1 comment:

Aaron Burkhalter said...

Dammit! I've been outed! And by my own brother to boot! Oh, yeah, and self admitting it on my own blog might have had something to do with it too...

I should also note, you can pick Common's newest offering up at Starbucks, and not just the Starbucks in Seattle, I found it in Port Orchard... PORT ORCHARD!

Also feeling old here. But I should say, Animal Collective are totally cool now. They've been featured on advertisements for CRAYOLA CRAYONS (pronounced "crowns" as I did when I was a lad) for chrissake! Beirut is also totally cool man.

Oh, and not to make this all too long, I think the cover is really campy, and that could be a good thing. I was dubious of the hot pink cover for "The Greatest" but I've grown to love it. Hopefully I'll grow to love this one too...

Now if you'll excuse me — me, my iPod, some Feist mp3's and a grande pumpkin spice latte have a date with destiny.