Wanderer by Cat Power

Six years after her electronica-influenced album Sun, Chan Marshall returns with a pared-back, self-produced album that she has dedicated to all those who wandered before her, a notion that weaves its way through each song. Wanderer sounds like it could be performed on porches, in a sunlit field, in living rooms, or in the hot, dusty desert: it rings with the sound of spurs on a plain, or echoing voices falling like rain. From the opening title piece, a wistful, beautiful vocal track with something of Kurt Cobain’s earnestness tempered by Marshall’s raw-honey tones, it is clear that each layer she adds to Wanderer is carefully considered.

Marshall’s reverence for the folk singers and blues singers of generations before – along with a nod to country singers in some of her best songs – is evident. Wanderer is both classic and modern: Marshall understands what has come before, though nothing is quite like Cat Power. In ‘You Get’, Marshall repeatedly insists ‘you get what you get’ and it feels bold and determined; in ‘Black’ she tells a compact, chilling story – something of a campfire legend, but with the ring of truth – with a dark guitar and a voice that could haunt you for days. Piano soars over strings in ‘Stay’, a ballad to broken souls; ‘Woman’, featuring Lana Del Rey, speeds from a shadowy, glorious twang lamenting the unwanted opinion of others to the two declaring in a clamouring chorus: ‘I’m a woman’; ‘Horizon’ feels like the prairie, as understated and expansive as its name, and a call to family: mother, father, sister, brother. ‘Wanderer/Exit’ finishes the album with a variation on its beginning, and closes it off with distant horns that call forth timeless, wide-open spaghetti westerns, and a sound – and artist – that cannot be contained.

Fiona Hardy is our monthly crime fiction columnist, and also blogs about children’s books at Fiona The Hardy.

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