Album Review: Standing on the Rooftop by Madeleine Peyroux
Fairly Good, Based on 4 Critics
The Guardian - 80 Based on rating 4/5
This is a fine, largely original album, give or take a handful of covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Lennon and McCartney, and Robert Johnson, and a couple from a recently kindled composing partnership with the Stones' Bill Wyman. The feel is darker, spookier and earthier than on 2009's Bare Bones (Cassandra Wilson producer Craig Street is clearly an influential presence), with contributions from Tom Waits guitarist Marc Ribot and New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint helping establish a simmering, semi-abstract backdrop for Peyroux's measured delivery and bluesy elisions. A major highlight is the echoing, gothic account of Johnson's Love in Vain.
In 2009, Madeleine Peyroux issued Bare Bones, her first recording of all-original material with producer Larry Klein and a small group of jazz musicians and co-composers. Standing on the Rooftop is her debut recording for Decca with producer Craig Street. The group of players here is a diverse lot: drummer Charlie Drayton, guitarists Christopher Bruce and Marc Ribot, bassist Me'Shell Ndegeocello; John Kirby, Glenn Patscha, and Patrick Warren alternate on keyboards, percussionist Mauro Refosco, violinist Jenny Scheinman, and Allen Toussaint guests on piano.
Madeleine Peyroux is best known for her dusky, out-of-time croon, whose lustrous grain will never live down—or up to, for that matter—the Billie Holiday comparisons that have dogged her over the last 15 years. While her vocals have certainly earned her many fans, perhaps her truest gift is her impeccable taste in material. Largely eschewing the oversung classics of the American Songbook, Peyroux has lent her voice to an array of songs representing an adventurous diversity: from Fred Neil and Leonard Cohen to Elliott Smith and Serge Gainsbourg.
Madeleine Peyroux’s 1996 debut, Dreamland was a disc you might have heard at plenty of hummus-and-pita chit-chat parties set in well-decorated apartments in a nice part of town. It wasn’t jazz, but it was jazz-ish. It might have been a post-modern blend of country and blues and Billie Holiday, or it might have just been a mess. But your smarter friends were spinning it.