The Greatest feels like a late-night walk down the loneliest street in the world. The title track evokes a half-drunk argument with one's self, berating failures and lamenting lost chances—it's a shattering track and one hell of a way to open what will almost certainly be one of 2006's greatest records. Chan Marshall, the almost pathologically shy artist who performs under the nom de plume Cat Power, made her seventh full-length in the heart of old school blues territory, lining her mournful tunes with the classic wax of old Stax records—you can practically taste the stale cigarette smoke. Recorded in Memphis, with a handful of '60s soul legends, these 12 songs are gripping, effortless and every bit as brutal as a vicious sucker punch. By turns solemn and wistful, Marshall can just as easily find the silver lining as mourn what's lost: "Living Proof" is an uptempo, gently rolling gem, while "Lived In Bars" and "Could We" are heartbreakingly earnest, tear-stained vignettes that feel like poignant conversations shared at closing time. Stunning in its seeming ease and a deeply moving whole, The Greatest is a devastating knockout that wraps its emotional roundhouse in the softest velvet imaginable. A stirring, raw masterpiece.