"You get the book?" Cat Power asked between songs Thursday night at Brooklyn's 150-person-capacity Union Pool, where her friend William Van Meter, a sometime SPIN contributor, celebrated the release of his new book, Bluegrass: A True Story of Murder in Kentucky.
The invite-only event saw Cat Power, a.k.a. Chan Marshall, crowd onto the tiny stage with a guitarist, keyboardist, and bassist. And once her feet touched the floor they didn't stop moving; she released her nervous energy by wiggling, shuffling, grabbing at her clothing, and playing to the crowd, who pushed up next to the stage.
During her five-song set, Marshall -- in jeans, a cardigan, and a dress shirt with a tie -- played her own material and a series of covers. The band transformed the buoyant and piano-led "I Don't Blame You" off 2003's You Are Free, by combining swampy blues guitar with Mazzy Star-like reverb under Marshall's harrowing croon about a rock star's life cut short.
She followed with Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son," off her covers album Dark End of the Street, reducing the spirited cadence of the original track to a slow groove, recalling Velvet Underground's Southern-tinged slow dance "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'."
The entire set -- also featuring "Song to Bobby," which she dedicated to "Billy," William Van Meter's nickname -- showed Marshal's darker side, thanks in part to the lack of drums and the guitarist's layers of riffs. This was especially true of her final song, a cover of Joni Mitchell's brooding "Blue."
But the sound matched the occasion, the release of a book that tackles a gloomy subject: the death of Katie Autry, who was raped, murdered, and mutilated in her dorm room at Western Kentucky University in 2003.
Cat Power / Photo by Eric Nowels
Cat Power's guitarist and keyboardist / Photo by Eric Nowels