What Would the Community Think (1996) and especially Moon Pix (1998) then saw her throw off any pretence at rock music, revealing an interest in America's most deeply rooted folk forms.
Moon Pix has moments of great beauty, in "Metal Heart" and "Colors and the Kids" particularly.
I feel honoured that they accepted me." The difference between the old-fashioned, soulful world of Ardent, where Marshall felt so at home, and modern America's brutal musical requirements, was borne out as soon as she played her label the results.
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In the East Village, she started hanging in the same crowd as Beck.
When Sonic Youth associate Wharton Tiers lured her into the studio, the sessions resulted in "Headlights", and the album Myra Lee (1996).
The nominated actor, 36, and his flame-haired girlfriend of about a year put their sartorial elegance on show as they walked a blue carpet at the Independent Spirit Awards in Santa Monica, California, on Saturday.
The news that Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, was journeying to Memphis to record with Al Green's old band seemed at first glance about as likely as Pavarotti hooking up with the Sex Pistols.
But it was The Covers Record (2000) where Cat Power first crept onto the radio, always late at night, with that Spartan, spooked version of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", surgically removing both its chorus and any sense of relief, and restoring "I Can't Get No"; as the song's lost point.
Other covers, of Dylan (a hero), Moby Grape, Smog, the Velvet Underground and Nina Simone might have revealed a sort of lineage, if most hadn't been mauled almost to the point of unrecognisability.
You Are Free (2003) then saw her grow into songs of a beauty that were nearly lush.
But the Ming vase fragility and crushed self-esteem which resulted from her early wandering and rejection were still at her core.
When two close friends died, she broke away again, to New York.