Cat Power claws down the coast to Henry Miller.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Chan Marshall, better known as Cat Power, exhibits the quintessential tortured soul of a musical genius – you know, one of the ones that usually die young. She suffers from depression, and she is a recovering alcoholic. Last January, she canceled a tour and admitted herself to Miami’s Mount Sinai Medical Center after a breakdown. During one NYC gig, she spent more time waving at a friend’s baby in the audience than performing.
But then there’s the genius side. On 2006’s The Greatest, she rediscovers the Hi Records-Memphis sound she grew up on, with the help of musicians that have backed Al Green and Booker T. Rolling Stone hailed the album as one of the top 50 of the year. Soon after, Cat Power’s Bonnaroo performance hypnotized thousands of rowdy concertgoers into simultaneous silence. Her reverential fanbase includes Liz Phair and Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley.
These days, the lively singer-songwriter is sober, but her edge remains sharp. This Sunday, Oct. 24, the 38-year-old dynamo visits Henry Miller Library.
She’ll perform minimalist songs that are sometimes so sparse there may be no more than three chords involved. But that’s how she captivates: no fluff or distraction, just heart, soul and voice that pierces as easily as it soothes.
The highlight of Cat Power’s most recent album Jukebox – comprised of old-time covers with the exception of two songs – is the original, “Song to Bobby.” On the homage to Bob Dylan, inspired by his own “Song to Woody,” Marshall offers a feminine take on the poet’s nasally tenor, and admits she has suffered from the common condition known as star-struck: “I was 15, 16 maybe/ In the park, I was waving my arms/ You waved this way/ And you sang the song I was screaming I wanted you to.”
The lyrics, like the experience that inspired them, speaks to a musical communion that is central for Cat Power.
“It’s a dualship, a communication between the listener and me,” she told Spin, “even though you’re not talking to each other or looking at each other, there’s this space that starts living.”