Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall) is an inimitable songwriter. She’s influenced many contemporary artists, while consistently defying the constraints of genre. But what happens when she records almost an entire album of songs written by other artists?
The result is 12 tracks which have been moulded and interpreted in a way that is soothing, personal; an invariably strong offering. She includes modern classics from the likes of Lana del Rey to Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds.
This isn’t the first time that Marshall has recorded a collection of interpolated cuts. Covers follows 2000’s The Covers Record and 2008’s Jukebox, both of which found a warm reception. This route of working makes sense given for years Marshall has performed covers on stage — an idea also rooted in the Covers artwork (a pencil and passport in Marshall's front pocket) — with most finding their way onto these projects.
Opening track “Bad Religion” is one such track. Marshall’s rendition, while having a different melody, is compelling and mesmerising. Making it very much her own, while keeping the desperation and hints of sadness in her raw vocals, carried over from Frank Ocean’s original. (If you’re looking for other covers of "Bad Religion", Bruno Major’s heartfelt live version from 2014 is also well worth a listen).
“Unhate” is a reworking of Marshall's original song “Hate” (taken from her 2006 album, The Greatest). Never feeling completely happy with the original version, Marshall took the opportunity to re-record it, breathing new life into a sixteen year-old song.
“Pa Pa Power” may the albums undercard, but it’s her take on Ryan Gosling’s Dead Man’s Bones’ song. Marshall has been playing “Pa Pa Power” live since 2012 in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement — due to its rather fitting, and emotionally driven lyrics including “Burn the streets / Burn the cars”.
“White Mustang” is a cover which first came about when Marshall toured with Lana Del Rey on the European leg of her 2018 tour, and through wanting to “do a cover for [Lana’s] fans”. When covering “one of my favourite songs of all time,” The Pogues’ “A Pair of Brown Eyes,” there comes a beautiful, melancholic feel with Marshall's vocals are full of heart, embodying the lyrics gracefully.
Marshall proves, with this album, that her skills go beyond her songwriting prowess. The songs on Covers have a stripped back, simplistic tone but that’s what makes them feel intimate yet enjoyable and they become uniquely Cat Power's.