On The Greatest, Cat Power expands the clean but warm studio sound she developed for You Are Free with the help of various Memphis studio musicians. The album begins with the title track, which sounds like a slightly up-tempo, choir-backed version of "Maybe Not" from Free, the haunting song she so stunning performed on Letterman. It's one of the most sparse songs on an album featuring horns, strings, lots of piano, and whistling. It's not amazing that Chan Marshall manages to be so eclectic on one album. What is amazing is how consistent her vocals are. Whether she's crooning a snappy jazz-tinted pop tune or whispering a jerky, bluesy tune, Marshall's voice always feels quietly strained but full and forceful. There's a lot of gravity in Cat Power's music, and The Greatest is pure heavyweight.
Listen to "The Greatest"
I'm noticing that this is the second release in a row I've discussed from the great folks at Matador Records. If you're not familiar with the label, check it out. They have a great, reasonably-priced back catalog. You can pick up The Greatest and their other releases at the best record store on the net, Insound. They sell those CD things, too.