With a title like The Greatest and a hot pink album cover featuring boxing glove bling, Chan Marshall (otherwise known as Cat Power) seems to be making an effort to separate herself from her established image with this latest release. Marshall, notorious for her insecurities and fumbling onstage persona, began the transformation last year with her contribution to the Handsome Boy Modeling School track "I've Been Thinking." The woman crooning about "those things we did" over icy-cool hip-hop beats seemed to be different from the introspective Marshall of yore. The Greatest doesn't stray too far from established Cat Power, but it is imbued with a new sensuality and strength that seems to have grown from some of this recent experimentation. Recorded in Memphis with Al Green's guitarist and songwriting partner Mabon "Teenie" Hodges, the new record finds Marshall sounding like she put a little South in her mouth. "Could We," with its upbeat hooks, borders on '60s country with a healthy heaping of soul. The title track's austere piano and vocal delivery sound undeniably like what you'd expect from Cat Power, and yet its confidence and sexiness feel new and fresh. Calling yourself the greatest may be asking for trouble, but Marshall seems to have pulled it off. One listen to The Greatest and any notion of a shy, insecure performer will surely be erased. Now let's just hope the confidence will stick.
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