Cat Power,” a friend said to me once, “is one of those

Cat Power,” a friend said to me once, “is one of those

Cat Power,” a friend said to me once, “is one of those artists who should never tour. She’s so amazing in the studio. She just can’t do it live.”

Many would agree. Crippling stage anxiety and a tendency to hit the bottle are very good reasons to concentrate efforts at home, so to speak. Yet for Cat Power, aka Chan Marshall, her restlessness to perform live for fans—of which she has devoted legions—has, historically, trumped her personal troubles. Tours have been cancelled in the process and performances have been either sublime or disastrous, but nothing—including depression, substance abuse, and breakdowns—has kept Cat Power away from the road for too long.

To wit, over a densely layered piano loop in “Ruin,” the third track from last year’s Sun, the artist rattles off an itinerary of global cities that would make Rick Steves jealous: “Saudi Arabia-Dakar-Calcutta-Soweto-Mozambique-Istanbul-Rio-Rome-Argentina-Chile-Mexico-Taiwan-Great Britain,” she scats in her trademark sultry tone, “All the way back home/To my town.”

Returning home is a strong theme for Marshall. She found it with her longtime backing band, The Dirty Three, who rarely blinked through what some have called the “rambling confessions” and erratic behavior of her live performances. And she thought she’d found it with Giovanni Ribisi, whom she dated for years.

Sun, in fact, three years in the making, finally came to light when she and Ribisi broke up. “I cut my hair off three days later, got on a plane to France, and finished the shit,” she told The Stool Pigeon in an interview. “I’m very proud of it.” Proud, likely, because she wrote, played, recorded, and produced the album mostly herself, citing minimal contributions from collaborators like Philippe Zdar (Phoenix, Beastie Boys), who mixed it, and Iggy Pop, one of the record’s few guests.

“Sun is don’t look back, pick up, and go confidently into your own future, to personal power and fulfillment,” Marshall says. At 41, playing solo for the first time since 2005, it’s sound advice she appears now to be living by. Or, as she succinctly puts it in “Peace and Love”: “I’m a lover, but I’m in it to win.”

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