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Cat Power
Dark End Of The Street Suzy West , December 3rd, 2008 13:26

In this karaoke culture where 10 million people tune in to X-Factor every week to see caterwauling idiots defile their favourite songs, there can surely be no hope for the cover version. Except, thankfully, in Chan Marshall's hands. Cat Power's covers aren't the usual pointless facsimiles of sure-fire hits or overblown bastardisations of well-known standards – with added warbling to signify emotion. But carefully selected, personal songs, treated with reverence and given a whole new lease of life; a new timbre; a new tune even.

There's no shame, if you're not in a karaoke bar, in singing other people's songs – Elvis did it. Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin did it. It is, perhaps, an odd move when you're as talented a songwriter as Marshall but, as demonstrated by this year's Jukebox, the trick is in the selection. Re-workings of Hank Williams, Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan tracks sidle up to Marshall's own 'Song For Bobby' and 'Metal Heart'. And those Jukebox sessions (recorded with the Dirty Delta Blues band) have now given us Dark End Of The Street – a double EP for the completist. Creedence's 'Fortunate Son', Fairport Convention's 'Who Knows Where The Time Goes' and Aretha Franklin's 'It Ain't Fair' amongst your off-cuts can't be bad.

'I've Been Loving You Too Long' is covered faithfully to great effect. There are no histrionics here, just a portamento to make Otis proud and a slow, Hammond swirl building up pressure under Jim White's increasingly agitated drumming. 'Dark End Of The Street' itself is country-tinged and sombre, like the Flying Burrito Brothers discovering the beer's run out.

If this band were your jukebox, you'd be in for a memorable couple of hours. But then you might go somewhere else to have your spirits lifted.