When I caught the inimitably delicious Cat Power at the Montreal jazz festival several years ago, she lived up to her reputation as a musical enchantress on her own terms, and one who naturally bucks conventionality. During the show’s first half, she moved from the guitar to the piano and back with a noticeable limp. Suddenly, she kicked up her heels and walked normally. “I love doing that old lazy leg thing,” she impishly exclaimed.
At the show’s end, she stood and swayed in acceptance of waves of love and ovations, and stood, and stood, and stood. She started imitating the audience’s yelps, as if she was an anthropologist trying to understand a people’s curious sounds and behavior. Needless to say, a Cat Power show doesn’t always play by the rules.
Dismiss her as an eccentric at your own peril: Cat Power (born Charlyn “Chan” Marshall) has a unique, left-of-center musical power in the singer-songwriter cosmos. Though a songwriting marvel, she also personalizes cover tunes, as on her new album Covers. There we find one of the most profound treatments of Jackson Browne’s masterpiece “These Days,” joining a list of haunting versions by artists as varied as Nico and Glen Campbell.
She thickens the sound spectrum with a lean band and background vocals on The Replacements’ “Here Comes a Regular,” among other hypnotic treats. Marshall, who always possessed a husky-dreamy vocal quality, goes deeper in that direction, ripened at age 50.
One expects Marshall will be tapping into her new album when she returns to the Lobero Theatre on Friday, September 9. Then again, one never really knows what to expect from Cat Power, which is partly why we love her so.
Now that the polls have officially closed for this year’s Independent Best of Santa Barbara® sweepstakes, it’s safe for this Indy insider to fling some personal opinion and biased advocacy around. To wit: I hope y’all did the right thing and voted for KCSB as “Best Radio Station.” This much treasured alternative media oasis in the 805 (and the webbed world) nabbed the “Best Of” badge once, in 2020, but it should be one of those boringly predictable shoe-ins.
Not only is KCSB, now 61 years old, one of the stronger left-of-the-dial non-commercial outlets on the West Coast, its wild mix of student and community-run programming thankfully flies under the blander radar of NPR programming models. Call it LPR — Local Public Radio — and proud of it.
A random program guide scan calls up some of my favorite, go-to shows at 91.9 FM: the adventuresome jazz ventures of beloved veteran Marta Ulvaeus’s Bright Moments and Bryan D. Brown’s The Return of CoolMojo — outside jazz fans, be alerted! On less easily defined turf, Steve S.’s great experimental Monday night hoedown Joyful Cosmos is a perennial winner (it deserves a “Best Avant-Garde Radio” award), and the left-and-right-of-folk, semi-absurd cultural fireside stuff of The Candy Mountain Mixtape is a weirdly delicious charm-fest on Fridays.
Other shows demanding ears and respect: savory gospel with Sista ROZ’s The Experience and deep-cut old-school soul on Secondhand Sounds, deep-dish fizzy research parties with Ted Coe’s The Freak Power Ticket and, in talking terms, the well-seasoned Culture of Protest and Jerry Roberts’s Newsmakers (including Indy scribes swapping news and wit-bits). KCSB gets my vote, or would.
TO-DOINGS: Kate McGarry’s status as a beloved, ever-underrated and abidingly artful jazz singer doesn’t tell the whole story, as one who covers Joni Mitchell (“Clouds”), Steely Dan (“Barrytown”) and Cat Stevens (“On the Road to Find Out”) on her latest, wondrous album What to Wear in the Dark. McGarry rarely makes it out west these days, and her current run includes a house concert in Santa Barbara on September 9. Get thee there. Contact [email protected].
Up over the 154, fall’s Tales from the Tavern series, nestled in the Maverick Saloon, kicks off on September 14 with Eliza Gilkyson (coming up in the season, Peter Case, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Dave Alvin). Bowl-wise, we got Leon Bridges (Sept. 8) and Nine Inch Nails (Sept. 13).