Cat Power Performs “I Don’t Blame You”

Cat_Power_-_You_Are_FreeListen to this track by Atlanta-born singer-songwriter Chan Marshall going under the name for which she is better known, Cat Power. It’s “I Don’t Blame You”, a single as taken from her 2003 album You Are Free. That record was a return to the stage after a three-year hiatus, resulting in her first record of original material since 1998, and her first charting album on the Billboard 100.

This song was the opening song on the album. But, it was the last one recorded on the sessions and was laid down almost as an afterthought. It remains to be Marshall’s personal favourite from the record; a spare and contemplative tale of fame, alienation, and ultimate loneliness. For many years, she was evasive about the central figure in the song, possibly because sometimes it’s often better for an artist not to spell things out for an audience. After all, explanations can change the perception of the work, which  can risk undermining its power. In interviews, she said that the song could be about anyone. And really, she’s right. The story to be found here is a common one among those who take the elevator of fame upwards into the stratosphere, only to find that the air up there is often too thin to sustain them.

Eventually, though, the hero of the story was revealed to be he whom many had suspected all along; Kurt Cobain.  Read more

Chan Marshall AKA Cat Power Performs ‘Could We’

Cat_Power_The_GreatestListen to this song by singer-songwriter Chan Marshall, better known as Cat Power. It’s ‘Could We’ as taken from her 2006 album The Greatest.

Chan Marshall‘s Dylan-fandom had taken her along a similar geographic  path as a songwriter, if not a strictly stylistic one.  Like Dylan, she ventured from the wilderness, in this case Georgia, to New York City to make a name for her self.  That’s true of a lot of songwriters, of course.

But on this album, again like Dylan, she would make a trip to the American South to create what many consider to be her best studio album to date in the Greatest.  In Dylan’s case, he went to country music capital of the world, Nashville.  Marshall chose Memphis, one of the centres of Southern soul music.   Where I wouldn’t compare Cat Power’s record to Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, I think that the search for an American sound by going to one of its Meccas was a common goal on both albums.

And you can hear that Marshall wanted to make this a concoction of American rock and pop, yet with a lot of soul music references, a bit of country, and even a touch of jazzy muted trumpet.  The result of the whole I think really comes forward on this particular  song.  The song’s lyrics refer to a first date, the beginning of a relationship. To me “Could We” is the sound of a recovery, a song about coming into the light again after spending time underground, taking baby steps, but moving in the right direction.  Maybe it strikes me this way  because even though there is a spark of joy in the lyrics, Marshall’s voice remains to be so beautifully fractured.

I think a lot of songs can come across in different ways all down to delivery.  This is made even more interesting when you consider how Marshall and her band interpreted the same story in the live version of ‘Could We’.  In this case, her voice is menacing, not vulnerable.  And the music behind her is a stark groove; gritty, sweaty, and more dangerous.  Once again, she follows Dylan’s mercurial practice of not treating the studio versions of songs as sacrosanct.

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