Jukebox is the second record in Cat Power’s career that mostly features her renditions of songs written by “noted elder statesmen” of the rock/pop music pantheon, including Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, and James Brown, among others. Not being all that familiar with large portions of the source material, I can’t say how well it compares to the originals, but as a stand-alone work, Jukebox is largely a sultry success.
Roughly an hour’s worth of inventive reinterpretations and intriguing recastings that stand on their own. Cat Power is smooth and confident, presenting and album full of class and soul. Her soft, rough-textured voice, ever wispy, commands a presence, despite sounding conjured from the ether. New York, New York, perhaps the most well-known song on Jukebox opens the album with forged bombastic drums that never let up before ending as abruptly as they began. From there, her take on Ramblin’ (Wo)Man one-ups Hank Williams, reaching like a spectre from the ghost town in your brain.
Also of note, Metal Heart, a piano-powered Cat Power original continues the space-filled and resonant balladry found on 2006’s The Greatest. And the somber, bittersweet guitar strains of Silver Stallion provide the album’s highlight.
Front-loading. The first four tracks are delightfully splendid, attention-grabbing standouts. Beyond that, while pleasant, Cat Power’s style is so singular that the album struggles to make a lasting impression. Which is all the more excuse to spend more time with it.
Ramblin’ (Wo)Man AOL Session performance. The sound isn’t synced for some reason, but the song works.