Essential toils

Cat Power's You Are Free

Sometimes all you need are the essentials – some feelings vocalized and a melody. The new Cat Power CD You Are Free is stripped down and stunning in its vulnerability. The songs seep into you slowly but deeply and will leave you feeling moved.

This is the fourth offering from Miami-based Chan (pronounced “Shawn”) Marshall, aka Cat Power, and this is the first CD of hers I have listened to in its entirety. I have heard songs here and there and always noted them, picked them out of mixed tapes or CDs and asked for a little bit more, but never asked for it all – likely because sometimes it can be too much, too sad, too heavy, or so I assumed.

You Are Free offers a sense of hope I was not expecting. It has playful tracks like “Free” and “He War” but it is not void of weight or sorrow, either. It is often stark and lonely especially with the songs, “Good Woman” and “Names,” but it’s powerful because of it. Much like an instrumental song connects and evokes feelings without words, as if closer to pure emotion, Cat Power finds that connection despite her prominent use of words. The response her music generates is definitely from the gut.

On first listen it seems to escape an intellectual response. It doesn’t even matter what Chan is saying, but rather how she is saying it, the way it sounds. That is not to imply that the words are irrelevant, rather that they take time to absorb. But when they sink in they sting. As a result the lyrics provide another layer to the songs, a sneaky way of adding complexity to such simplicity.

This CD features piano, guitar, strings, drums and some harmonies, but not usually all at once. Nothing is overdone, the songs end when they should. It is humble and poignant. In a musical climate that is cold with hip-hop/pop’s offerings of name dropping and bling bling, this album will haunt and startle with its humble nature, a refreshing return to the basics.

If you are already a fan, this CD will not disappoint. If you dig the feel of The Cowboy Junkies or Beth Orton you will find parallels to draw you into Cat Power. Or if you are simply looking for music that forces emotions to the surface, this is the CD.


Cat Power.

Matador. $24.99

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