Sunset Music

Cat Power – The Greatest from The Greatest

This song came on tonight as I was sitting in my living room, watching the sun disappearing over the hill across the way.   The energy of the day has dissipated but the black of night hasn’t yet set in.  Everything is bathed in an orangish glow and you feel very relaxed.  Cat Power’s The Greatest has a combination of warmth and quietness that is a perfect complement to that time of evening.

The first cut off the album with the same name, it begins with a delicate piano and a wave of first guitar and then strings.  A simple snare and hi-hat combo come in a moment before Marshall starts singing.  Her voice is soothing with a tinge of her Southern upbringing.  Looking at the lyrics on paper they don’t make a lot of sense to me other than it being about loss (it makes me think of something William Faulkner would have written if he was an indie song writer in the 2000s), but taken as an abstract instrument, Marshall’s singing of those words adds to the atmosphere of the song I mentioned above.  Her voice is able to show emotion while maintaining strength (this is not some cloying or saccharine pop singer).

This album is written about as a return to her Southern roots, noting the bevy of well-known soul musicians who accompanied her on the record.  At least on this song, I feel like Cat Power transcends any sort of labeling and created a great piece of music to enjoy alongside a summer sunset.   Even the final note, a cymbal hit that fades out into a few seconds of silence, conjures up that instant when the sun disappears over the horizon but the light stays with you for a little while.

Here’s a live version from Jools Holland’s show that’s pretty close to the album version.  She’s known as a somewhat erratic performer with stage fright issues (she’s got some interesting moves going at times here).  I saw here live in a festival setting a few years after this 2006 performance, she was great then.



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