This past semester I took a class at the University of Wisconsin called “Black Music and Modern American Culture”. We covered black American music from James Carr, Sam Cooke and the sounds of the early 60’s all the way to Wu-Tang, Outkast, Scarface, and the emergence of new-age hip-hop. Not only did the class make me feel smarter and cooler than basically everyone else, but I regained a deep appreciation for the soul, gospel, and blues roots of black music in the 1960s. Gone were three-hour Sufjan Stevens and Rogue Wave listening sessions. In came hours and hours of blues, from Bill Withers to Otis Redding to Stax Records to Curtis Mayfield. Not only was my appreciation for the basis of Rock ‘n Roll strengthened, but my musical horizons were expanded to artists I had previously found trite or uninteresting, which leads me to the purpose of this post…
I never really understood the appeal of Cat Power until my professor played me “Dark End of the Street” by James Carr. The raw emotion Carr evokes and the simplicity of it all made me fall in love with Cat Power, as I saw plenty of parallels between her work and that of the aforementioned ‘kings of blues’ of the 60’s. Now, everyone’s favorite gorgeous indie-soul crooner Chan Marshall is back with a collection of covers that just barely missed the cut on Jukebox, her cover album released in January of this year. While I unfairly paid little attention to Jukebox (for reasons I just stated), the Dark End of the Street EP, due out tomorrow, was exactly what the doctor ordered. A smoky, off-tempo, re-constructive take on a CCR classic (“Fortunate Son”)? Check. A soulful, stirring, and gravelly homage to James Carr and early 60’s soul (“Dark End of the Street”)? Check. A remake of an absolutely solid gold gospel/soul/blues hit from the king of gospel/soul/blues Otis Redding (“I’ve Been Loving You too Long (to Stop Now)”)? Check.
Pitchfork gave the new EP a 3.8, which is not only absolute and complete bullshit, but is just another example of P-Fork’s inability to take their heads out of their own asses and just reaffirms my concept that their writers share a certain “smug-ness” with inhabitants of San Francisco. For them not to be able to appreciate the beauty of “Fortunate Son” and “Dark End of the Street”, to me, is appalling. I recommend they take Afro-Am 156 at Wisconsin, then issue a letter of apology. Yes, this is how strongly i feel. Listen.
Grab a copy of the album from Matador tomorrow.