Following up on the success of 2006's The Greatest, Chan Marshall delivers another knockout. Sure, Marshall's a proven song stylist — see 2000's Covers Record, on which she dramatically reworked songs down to their bare minimum. But she left that album's sparseness behind on 2006's The Greatest and went all Memphis. So here, like Greatest, she's joined by a crack backing band. But rather than Memphis soul, Jukebox gives up a bluesier sound, courtesy of Delta 72 keyboardist Greg Foreman, Blues Explosion guitarist Judah Bauer, and Dirty Three drummer Jim White. Consider them the hi-def swampy blues-soul centerpiece behind Marshall's interpretive song-dance.
Kicking off with brash impertinence, Marshall swoons through a steamy, Delta-fied "New York, New York" (yes, the Kander-Ebb tune made famous by Sinatra and Liza) that could've been the backdrop to Will Smith's recent I Am Legend. But she's just getting started. A jazzy spin on Hank Williams "Rambling Man" is complemented by a stirring run on the Highwaymen's "Silver Stallion." The wanton ache is as understated as it is undeniable. Her great, Southern-rock version of Dylan's "I Believe in You" kicks off an astounding three-song late-album stretch that includes the sweet, folksy teen love lament "Song to Bobby" and a smoky, haunting spin on Billie Holiday's "Don't Explain." Toss a Janis Joplin cover into the mix, and Marshall once again shows some kind of fearlessness — or a least a smart woman with a killer voice and record collection.
Chris Parker writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].