In 2008, I not only saw Nick Cave and his magnificent Bad Seeds live this year at the Hollywood Bowl (a birthday gift from mi novia—thank you baby), Cat Power was there, Chan Marshall and her Dirty Delta Blues band, and played one of the best sets by an opening act I have ever seen in my life. Cat Power was the best not only because her one and only chanteusian voice, but because she has one of the best backing bands in the business. I was amazed how guitarist Judah Bauer and the rest of the Dirty Delta Blues band huddled around each other as Marshall sang at the front of the stage, as if they were gathering all the power in some sort bluesy séance for all of us at The Bowl to witness their rhythmic greatness.
You can hear intensity of the Dirty Delta Blues band that I saw in concert come alive on the Dark Side of the Street EP‘s magnificent cover of Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Much Too Long.” You feel the beauty in Marshall’s sultry vocal as Bauer’s guitar leads the band in a triumphant interpretation that builds slowly into a peaking climax that would make Otis smile from above. It’s so hot that you’ll need to open up a window, breathe in some fresh cold air and light a cigarette after listening to such a mind-blowing cover.
I was very hot and bothered by Marshall’s voice throughout with Dark End of the Street. It’s a continuation of the exceptional renditions she mastered on Jukebox, released early in 2008. The way I hear it, if you add the five songs from the bonus disc that was added on the limited edition with these six majestic covers, this makes the ideal version that I dubbed Jukebox: Volume II. I can never get enough of Cat Power, and these songs from the Jukebox sessions make my holiday season a little bit more rhythmically complete.
Another sexy cover here is Marshall’s burning version of Aretha Franklin’s “It Ain’t Fair.” Sometimes, on Dark End of the Street, Chan’s vocal is so intimate, it sounds as if she’s softly serenading you in your room as Bauer’s bluesy riffs and Jim White’s brushes reflect the aching inside this classic of unrequited devotion. One of the surprises is the acoustic version of The Pogues’ “Ye Auld Triangle.” I love it when Marshall and her Dirty Blues Band strip these originals down to the core with just Chan’s voice carrying the melody. Her voice is the main instrument and the key that gives the Dirty Blues Band its passionate center.
Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” is one of my all time favorites, especially Nina Simone’s incredible live interpretation that I wrote about in Treble’s Best Songs Ever: Oscar Edition last February. Cat Power does a very minimalist version with just her voice and a piano. The keys in this version mirror the chords from “The Greatest.” You feel it all, in this wonderful version that would make Nina and Sandy proud.
The string arrangement on “Fortunate Son” and backing vocals give this CCR cover an exceptional post-modern bluesy take on this vintage protest song. The title track is equally as memorable and adds to a package that makes Dark End of The Street an essential addition to your Cat Power discography. What you get here are six extraordinary covers by Chan Marshall, whose singing reaches out to you in voice that seduces you with an emotional honesty missing in this age of artificially souled-out radio refrains. If you want to feel and be moved by an artist Cat Power and her Dirty Blues Band take a long walk down this Dark End of the Street.