Chan Marshall goes her own way. For better or worse, the singer and songwriter better known as Cat Power never fails to project what she’s feeling on wax or in front of an audience. 2013 marks almost 20 years as a recording artist (and well over 20 as a songwriter and performer), and as she prepares to take the stage Saturday night at the Moody Theater, there’s no sign she’s stopping anytime soon.
Marshall was born in Atlanta, Ga. on January 21, 1972 (she celebrated birthday 41 earlier this week). She had a whirlwind childhood split between her mother and step-father and her blues-singer father. By 18, she was out on her own making music in Atlanta. One of the groups she found herself in called themselves Cat Power. Marshall liked the name, and took it for her own nom de rock. In 1992 she made her way to New York. The following year Marshall released her first single as Cat Power, and her first full-length Dear Sir followed in 1995. 1998’s Moon Pix was a landmark record for Marshall. As the 90s progressed, Marshall became notorious for live shows that could range from the ecstatic to the erratic (but always magnetic). Marshall followed her muse on stage wherever it took her. In the mid-2000s she would exit the road for a time, overwhelmed by stress and problems with alcohol–problems she eventually faced down and conquered.
In 2000 she put out The Covers Record, an album full of her own renditions of tunes by The Velvet Underground, Bob Dylan, Moby Grape, and more (and featuring guest spots from Eddie Vedder and Dave Grohl). For her next album, 2006’s The Greatest, she took on the rootsy soul music she grew up on. She hit the road again in support of the record. Marshall again tackled the music of others on her 2008 album Jukebox. The record featured Cat Power covers of tunes by Billie Holiday, Joni Mitchell and Dylan. She even re-worked her own “Metal Heart” from the Moon Pix album.
This past fall Marshall released her latest record Sun. Unlike past records, instead of recruiting a band to back her up, Marshall did the bulk of the recording and producing on her own, employing a more electronic touch to Sun than previous outings. She reportedly even dipped into her own personal savings to bankroll the record, a decision that nearly led her to nix the current tour. You can hear a bit of this approach on the album’s opener (and our song of the day) “Cherokee.” Looped beats and post-punk melodies make for a angsty, stomping lead-track. Marshall hides a very a deep well of emotion just below the surface on her restrained, yet smoldering, vocals. After two decades making music, Chan Marshall is better than ever.