Eric Schlegel for The New York Times
Cat Power has a new album of cover tunes.
Rock Cantankerousness and Other Moods
By JON PARELES
“Song to Bobby,” the one new song on Cat Power’s “Jukebox” (Matador), is a fan letter from a fairly well-known songwriter, Chan Marshall (a k a Cat Power), to a major one, Bob Dylan, about their missed chances to meet. It’s the conceptual key to her second album devoted to other people’s songs; they’re quietly assertive as well as admiring. “Jukebox” funnels many sources into Cat Power’s moodiness: forlorn, forsaken and restless. She finds it in songs as initially diverse as “New York, New York,” Joni Mitchell’s “Blue,” the blueswoman Jessie Mae Hemphill’s “Lord, Help the Poor and Needy” and her own “Metal Heart.” Unlike the sparse, haunted solo recordings of “The Covers Record” in 2000, “Jukebox” uses a band: a roots-rock lineup that’s fond of Southern soul and the Rolling Stones. It plays at measured tempos, simplifies chords to keep things bluesy and gives her space to waft her vocals into the songs. Although she and the band regularly played these songs on tour, they’re loose and deliberately wispy, sung with a diffidence suggesting that not even Cat Power is sure where her wanderings lead. She doesn’t outdo the originals. Instead, like a fan, she claims them by pondering them.