Madeleine Peyroux's first release in eight years is a moody, haunting masterpiece that will soon be playing in every coffee house and cozy bar in the country. It's a whale of a record. Peyroux's voice is amazinggrainy, intimate and unaffected, with a bluesy lilt that at times recalls mid-career Billie Holiday. In fact, her singing recalls not just Holiday but the generation of singers who came up in the 1930speople like Lee Wiley, Connie Boswell, Maxine Sullivan and Cliff Edwardswho sang with an unembellished directness and intense sincerity.
On Careless Love, Peyroux's material and backing are equally straightforward. Masterfully produced by Larry Klein, the record has a warm and gentle sound that sets the stage for Peyroux to seduce with her once-in-a-generation voice. While this is jazz at heart, it borrows freely from country, folk and pop. Peyroux takes material from a wide range of souces and makes it her own. Even "Weary Blues," a song that could easily derail a less assured artist, is transformed from Hank Williams' original.
The real standouts are Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love"; "Don't Wait Too Long," which Peyroux co-wrote with Klein and Norah Jones collaborator Jesse Harris; and "This is Heaven to Me," which closes the set and with which Peyroux acknowledges her debt to Billie Holiday. These are the kind of songs that make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck. Other tracks include country classic "Lonesome Road"; "J'ai Deux Amours," recorded by Josephine Baker; and Elliot Smith's "Between the Bars." The title track was written by W. C. Handy and recorded by Bessie Smith.
Peyroux captivated a standing-room-only crowd at Barbès on October 8th with her intense, moving delivery. It was a final New York appearance before heading out on tour to sell her recordand herselfto the world. It was a small room and she was backed by a stellar band that included Ben Perowsky on drums, Jerome Harris on bass, and Jenny Scheinman on violin. Trumpeter Marcus Printup received enthusiastic applause playing an intimate, lyrical swing. Peyroux's performance was thrilling. She closed the show with a breathtaking version of "This Is Heaven To Me," with its somber melody and resonances of Holiday. Watching her I felt that this must be what it was like to see Holiday at the Five Spot, or Lee Wiley at Nick's way back when. I realized thenbecause it was that kind of song and she has that kind of voicethat people will be listening to Madeleine Peyroux long after we're all gone.
Personnel: Madeleine Peyroux-vocals, acoustic guitar; Dean Parks-guitars; Larry Goldings-piano, wurlitzer organ,
estey, hammond organ, celeste; David Piltch bass; Jay Bellerose-drums and percussion; Lee Thornburg-
trumpet; Scott Amendola-brushes