Cat Power

SXSW records

Phases and Stages

Cat Power

You Are Free (Matador) You Are Free finds Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power) getting comfy in her rock & roll skin. The arrangements are looser, more driven than on past releases. They take more chances. But it's still Cat Power: simple, spacious, overwhelmingly affecting. Marshall has a voice as distinctive and enchanting as Billie Holiday, capable of summoning the same emotions in the listener -- awe, lust, bewilderment, a burning desire to reach out and shelter the delicacy of it from all the crude harshness of the world. Where Holiday was hampered by a debilitating drug habit, Marshall is limited only by musicianship. Her guitar playing is rudimentary, her piano playing even more so, but rather than contributing to a sense of confinement, the basic nature of melody and execution speaks volumes. Her songs are so personal it's embarrassing, yet so abstract they can mean a million things -- both at the same time. In the same line. She addresses the ghost of Kurt Cobain ("I Don't Blame You"); despairs over friends and opportunities lost ("Names"); and ruminates about love doomed to failure ("Good Woman"). She turns covers of John Lee Hooker and Michael Hurley into signature tunes. And in every instance, we make the song our own, fit it to our lives and to the world that's happening around us. That's what good art does. You Are Free is great art. (Stubb's, Friday, 9pm)

****

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