Release Date: Mar 10, 2009
Record label: Rounder
Madeleine Peyroux's fourth album isn't the normal mix of standards (contemporary or traditional) with a few songs of her own composing; each of the 11 tracks is a new song written by Peyroux, usually in tandem with producer Larry Klein or a guest. Still, she appears in her usual relaxed setting, with a small group perfectly poised to translate her languorous vocals into perfect accompaniment -- organist Larry Goldings, pianist Jim Beard, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, plus producer Klein on bass, Dean Parks on guitar, and Carla Kihlstedt on violin. Fans of vocal jazz may be disappointed to see that all the songs are new ones -- many a great conversation could consist solely of the standards she should perform -- but they may regret the disappointment.
The empress of the jazzy, languid groove does what she has done on her two bestsellers (and her half-forgotten 1996 debut); purr intimately about life and the iniquities of love over retro backings of brushed drums and polite piano that evoke Billie Holiday. There is one crucial difference; Peyroux is not singing other people's songs. She wrote 10 numbers here with various foils, most often her habitual producer Larry Klein, and one on her own.
The title of Madeleine Peyroux's latest album has Buddhist meanings for her, but even without that connection it is built on simplicity - there are no jazz horn solos or kd lang vocal duets as on Half the Perfect World, and the songs (almost all Peyroux's, in a step away from the covers-artistry she has specialised in) are, if anything, more wistful and still than ever. At first, her favoured Fats Waller swing beat on the opening song Instead suggests the old familiar mix, but the soft organ purr and guitar chords of the title sets the real tone, for an album of heartaches mostly without regrets - written in collaboration with Steely Dan's Walter Becker and producer Larry Klein, and influenced by Leonard Cohen's blend of impressionism and stark honesty, particularly on a track such as Love and Treachery. Peyroux comes to Britain this month, but though the Cheltenham jazz festival figures in her dates, jazz is more of an ephemeral reference here than ever.
Smoky-voiced singer finally sits in the songwriter’s chairUntil now, it’s been easiest to think of Madeleine Peyroux as an inveterate song finder with a vocal gift from above, a masterful interpreter of other people’s material whose distinctive style renders everything she touches in “shades of Billie Holiday. ” But on this, her fifth full-length in 13 years of recording, Peyroux crosses over into full-fledged-songwriter terrain, penning or co-authoring all 11 tracks. Predictably, the results are mixed compared to previous efforts—the quality of her performance remains extraordinarily high, but the material is spottier than usual, particularly when Peyroux stretches beyond her comfort zone and into newfound emotional real estate.
Erstwhile standards-bearer Madeleine Peyroux has ditched oldies to co-write every track on her fourth album Bare Bones, and though some fans will wish she’d stayed in Bessie ‘n’ Billie territory, it’s interesting to hear that Victrola voice meet a more contemporary sensibility. (”Screwed like a high school cheerleader… Bust like an Internet millionaire,” she sings on the Walter Becker-co-penned ”You Can’t Do Me.”) Producer Larry Klein so worships that voice, he turns it up miles above the overly tasteful instrumentation, which could’ve stood more meat on its bones. But the smart and emotional material makes for an impressive step away from the retro ghetto.