Gentleman Jim Reeves was perhaps the biggest male star to emerge from the Nashville sound. His mellow baritone voice and muted velvet orchestration combined to create a sound that echoed around his world and has lasted to this day. Detractors will call the sound country-pop (or plain pop), but none can argue against the large audience that loves this music. Reeves was capable of singing hard country ("Mexican Joe" went to number one in 1953), but he made his greatest impact as a country-pop crooner. From 1955 through 1969, Reeves was consistently in the country and pop charts – an amazing fact in light of his untimely death in an airplane accident in 1964. Not only was he a presence in the American charts, but he became country music's foremost international ambassador and, if anything, was even more popular in Europe and Britain than in his native America.
While virtually unknown in the U.S., pop singer Jennifer Rush achieved superstar status as an expatriate in Europe, selling millions of records and releasing a string of hit singles notable for their booming, dance-rock arrangements and Rush's powerful voice. She released a series of songs that made her a star in Europe, including "Into My Dreams," "Come Give Me Your Hand," "25 Lovers," and "Ring of Ice." In 1985, Rush scored a massive European hit with "The Power of Love," which became one of the longest-running chart-toppers in U.K. history. She continued to retain a large European following throughout the rest of the '80s and '90s, collaborating with writers such as Desmond Child and Diane Warren and performing with high-profile acts like Michael Bolton and Placido Domingo. Despite selling millions of albums abroad, most of her albums have not been released in the U.S.
On The Blue Room, her second Decca recording, Madeleine Peyroux and producer Larry Klein re-examine the influence of Ray Charles' revolutionary 1962 date, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music. They don't try to re-create the album, but remake some of its songs and include others by composers whose work would benefit from the genre-blurring treatment Charles pioneered. Bassist David Pilch, drummer Jay Bellerose, guitarist Dean Parks, and pianist/organist Larry Goldings are the perfect collaborators. Most these ten tracks feature string arrangements by Vince Mendoza. Five tunes here are reinterpretations of Charles' from MSICAWM. "Take These Chains" commences as a sultry jazz tune, and in Peyroux's vocal, there is no supplication – only a demand. Parks' pedal steel moves between sounding like itself and a clarinet. Goldings' alternating B-3 and Rhodes piano offer wonderful color contrast and make it swing. Her take on "Bye Bye Love" feels as if it's being narrated to a confidante, and juxtaposes early Western swing with a bluesy stroll. A rock guitar introduces "I Can't Stop Loving You," but Peyroux's phrasing has more country-blues in it than we've heard from her before. The use of a trumpet in "Born to Lose" and "You Don't Know Me," with Mendoza's dreamy strings, allow for Peyroux to deliver her most stylized jazz performances on the set.