The Greatest (Matador)

Whether wed to Sonic Youth-ish feedback on her early albums or sparse piano/guitar arrangements on her later ones, Chan Marshall's voice is as seductive as a warm bottle of Bordeaux. On The Greatest, Marshall, aka The Woman Known As Cat Power, finally finds a sound to fit her considerable vocal talents. Recorded in Memphis with soul-music vets, The Greatest shines with lazy Sunday-ness, as Marshall mines rainy-day real estate with breezy whistling on "After It All" and a sweet fiddle on "Empty Shell." Memphis-fried horns and organs emerge from the shadows almost everywhere else, while legendary Al Green collaborator Mabon "Teenie" Hodges wields a sly guitar on most of the tracks. At this point everyone from Bob Dylan to Dusty Springfield has played the record-in-Memphis trick. But Marshall has the Southern-born cred to pull it off, and it shows in such songs as "Lived in Bars," a closing-time ode to dusty dives that rides a smooth tempo change into a swinging groove. Seven albums into her career, this cat still has power. Paul L. Underwood

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