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CAT'S MEOW: Not only is Chan Marshall, a.k.a. Cat Power, a soul whose voice is at least six lives old, she's also one of the most hauntingly gifted songwriters out there. So perhaps it was understandable when her label, Matador, was less than thrilled when she proposed an all-covers album for her next project. Though Matador hasn't exactly set the world on fire promoting the new release (they're waiting for the new Cat Power album, due in early 2001), the experiment is truly a revelation.

On The Covers Album, Marshall has reinvented the idea of "standards" for a postmodern audience. In the same way that Sinatra made a Cole Porter song his own, Marshall covers everything from Bob Dylan to The Rolling Stones to the Velvet Underground to Smog to Nina Simone to herself -- accompanying herself on only acoustic guitar or piano -- and renders each one almost unrecognizable to the learned ear. She eschews the original melody almost entirely on every song (save her dreamy take on Phil Phillips' "Sea of Love"), and also plays with the lyrics, changing them for her own purposes and sometimes omitting them entirely.

Exhibit A: The Velvet Underground's "I Found A Reason," which Marshall literally cuts in half. The Velvet's version clocked in at 4:17; Marshall's is exactly two minutes. Cat Power's treatment excludes the V.U. version's "ba, ba, ba" harmonies and the first couple verses (including the lines, "I do believe / If you don't like things, you leave"), then picks up halfway through the V.U. version, right when Lou Reed sings, "I do believe / You are what you perceive." Except that Marshall has changed it to, "I do believe / In all the things you see," then goes on to finish it the way it was written: "What comes is better / Than what came before," and follows with the Velvet's bridge: "And you'd better come...to me," to which she's added, "Better run...to me." In short, she took a beautiful four-and-a-half minute pop song, cut it down to two lines from a verse, plus the bridge, and made it heartbreakingly new. If the lines she borrows from the original version have ever given you a chill, then her rendition will have you on your knees.

You hear the term "reinterpretation" every time someone does a cover version, but this album teaches us, once and for all, the difference between an interpretation and a reinterpretation. Just as George and Ira Gershwin were in Sinatra's time, so are Jagger/Richards in Cat Power's time. Rock songs are the new standards, and it's just not enough in the year 2000 to do a straight -- even if it's the definitive -- version of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." You've got to cut and paste it to your own specific needs, as Marshall does, changing the song's intention from a tale of wasted lust to a plea for compassion. After hearing her phrasing on the lines, "Baby, baby, baby, come back / Can't you see I'm on a losing streak?," again omitting a line ("Maybe next week"), you will never hear the Stones' version the same way again. Or then again, maybe you will; Marshall's is a different song entirely.

Go see Cat Power on Monday, May 1, at Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave. Rhumbas In Black opens the show at 9 p.m., followed by Gabrielle. Cover is only $6. Call 884-0874 with any questions.


SMOKIN' BACON: The fun party game "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" just got a little more complicated: not only do we have the footloose-and-fancy-free actor's film canon to contend with, but with the release of Getting There (Helena Music Company), the second full-length album by Kevin and his brother Michael as The Bacon Brothers, we can now safely incorporate pop stars into the mix.

It's always a risky proposition when actors try to cross over into music, but the Brothers' press kit assures us that they've been making music together for 20 years, which would mean that Kevin most likely began playing guitar and singing with his brother well before he began acting. And while some of the songs on Getting There sound like they could have been written 20 years ago, the album really isn't so bad. It's tasteful, un-risky countrified folk-pop, but it certainly has its moments.

Kevin proves himself as the stronger songwriter of the two on songs like the wistful album opener, "Ten Years in Mexico" ("Tequila smile and a mango kiss / They've never seen rain quite like this"), while Michael tends toward the over-earnest on the title cut: "I'm a man who likes to take his time / In the ways of love." The few attempts at humor fall flat, as on "Arm Wrestling Woman" and the self-referential and self-indulgent "T.M.I." ("Lennon-McCartney they're not...Stick to the movies instead.") Elsewhere, "Don't Look Back" begs the question "What if James Taylor fronted the BoDeans?," and the Bacons show their good taste in music by tackling Tom Waits' "Jersey Girl." All in all, its much more listenable than Keanu Reeves' Dogstar.

Check out The Bacon Brothers at 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 2, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are available for $15 at CD Depot, Hear's Music, Congress Street Store, Zip's University, Guitars, Etc., and Sticks & Strings. Call 798-3333 for more information.


VAN VAN VANGUARD: Hailed as both "The best dance band in Cuba," and "The Rolling Stones of Latin music," by no less than The New York Times, Los Van Van brings its highly influential sound to town this week for what promises to be a Cuban dance explosion. Led by songwriter/bassist/vocalist Juan Formell, the 14-piece band, now celebrating its 31st year, is unique in that it incorporates such instruments as violin, flute and trombone into a particular type of dance music they invented called songo, a blend of Cuban and Caribbean rhythms that fuses traditional and modern song forms. It's a conglomeration that earned them a Grammy last year for Best Salsa Performance.

Lace up those dancing shoes and head out to see Los Van Van at 8 p.m. Monday, May 1, at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St. Advance tickets are available for $22 at Hear's Music, CD Depot, Zip's University, Guitars, Etc., Congress Street Store and Yoly's. For more info, call 798-3333.


LOG'S ROLLING: Give one-man distorto-delta blues band Bob Log III some credit. His unique brand of sonic cacophony -- along with his ingenious invention of a new type of percussion instrument, as heard on "Clap Your Tits" from his latest release, Trike (Fat Possum Records) -- has lately earned him more national press than Elian. But Log seems proudest of the article appearing in the March issue of Playboy (Page 25, he notes in his press release), and almost as proud of the fact that he's taking his show to 11 countries over the next four months, a tour that commences with a hometown appearance this weekend.

Bob Log III takes the stage on Friday, April 28, at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. San Diego's Butch Wax Duo opens the show at 9 p.m., followed by Brown Whorenet, a self-proclaimed "eight-piece avant-garde rock implosion" from Austin, Texas. Call the club at 670-9202 for details.


REGGAE REVELRY: It's springtime again in Tucson, and that can only mean one thing: festivals, festivals, festivals. The first major one of the season hits town this weekend.

The Tucson Bob Marley Festival, now in its seventh year, is a gargantuan event that combines both the reggae and world music of its late, great namesake along with the man's message of cultural and spiritual unity. In addition to Tucson reggae artists like Neon Prophet, One Blood and DJ Papa Ranger, and fellow Arizonans like Dee Dee Dread and The Zion Knights, Tribal War, Rasta Farmers, Dread Warriors and SubDub, the festival brings in artists from around the globe to preach worldwide peace. This year's travelers include Rascalin & The Roots Rockers, Isaac Haile Selassie, Anna Fisher, Tchiya Amet, Azumah Matiko, Dawtas of Jah, Zema and Jawge & The UK.B.

The Bob Marley Festival runs from noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday, April 29 and 30, at Kennedy Park, 3700 S. La Cholla Blvd., at Ajo Way. Suggested donation at the door is $5, or $8 in non-perishable food. Proceeds benefit The Highland Free School, Desert Survivors and Golf Links Baptist Church. For more information, call 327-2214 or visit www.bobmarley-festival.com.


LAST NOTES: A couple of other noteworthy shows this week:

The sound of Seattle's The Load Levelers falls somewhere in between the cowpunk of Jason and the Scorchers and the Southern fried rock of Thunderosa, as their 1999 7-inch EP, A Half Step Flat (Ain't That A Rat's Ass Records) attests. They appear at 9 p.m. Monday, May 1, at 7 Black Cats, 260 E. Congress St. Call 670-9202 for details.

And finally, bluesy stoner rockers Nebula drag their potent stew of heaviosity to the stage of Club Congress, 311 E. Congress St., on Friday, April 28. San Francisco's Drunk Horse and Tucson's own Molten Leather kick things off with a bang at 9 p.m. Cover charge is $5, and you can call the club at 622-8848 for more info.

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