Indie-folk singer Chan Marshall has a reputation for onstage unpredictability, but some erratic (read: often drunken) live performances wont have prepared you for the full-bodied beast that is The Greatest
. Recorded with the help of a few Memphis musicians, including Al Green co-writer Mabon "Teenie" Hodges, his brother Leroy "Flick" Hodges, and present Booker T And The MGs drummer Steve Potts, this is a gentle homage to 70s soul that Chan carries with a sleepy-eyed charm.
Element of pastiche or not, though, theres a vitality here thats absent from many of her earlier recordings: "Living Proof" simmers with a just-under-the-surface raunch, Chan cooing "Its not your face/Or the colour of your hair/Or the sound of your voice, my dear
" over the simmering organ, while even the restrained "Where Is My Love" boasts a mini-orchestra of sweeping violin and elegiac, wandering piano. Most importantly, The Greatest doesnt suffer from the rather troublesome sense of genre tourism you get when, say, Will Oldham hooks up with a troupe of Nashville old-hands perhaps because its executed so convincingly, or perhaps simply because Chan Marshalls voice could melt your heart under any context--Louis Pattison