Madeleine Peyroux made a bit of a stir in 1996 due to her voice sounding remarkably close at times to Billie Holiday's. This wide-ranging set features Peyroux singing swing standards, originals and tunes that hint at country and folk music. Her supporting cast, which changes on each selection, includes a restrained James Carter on tenor and bass clarinet, Marc Ribot on dobro and guitar, trumpeter Marcus Printup, pianist Cyrus Chestnut and violinist Regina Carter, among others. A very interesting release which, despite the derivative nature of Peyroux's voice, is full of surprises. Highlights include "Walkin' After Midnight," "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter," "La Vie en Rose" and "Muddy Water".
Smokey-voiced chanteuse Madeleine Peyroux's third CD is a lovely collection of after-hours ruminations and should confirm her rise to fame. Credit producer Larry Klein for doing a bang-up job with the album's sound: the elegant, pared-down arrangements are all brushed drums, acoustic guitars, and cool organ licks. But of course it's Peyroux's voice that brings it all home–preferably one where the shades are drawn, embers are smoldering in the fireplace, and the white wine is kept dry. Two-thirds of the songs are well-chosen covers, including a duet with k.d. lang on Joni Mitchell's "River"; a relaxed version of Fred Neil's "Everybody's Talkin'," from Midnight Cowboy; a delicately lilting samba take on Leonard Cohen and Anjani Thomas's title track; Serge Gainsbourg's "La Javanaise," performed in the original French; and Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," from Modern Times. The four originals, all coauthored by Peyroux, easily keep up with such august company, especially "I'm All Right"–written with Klein and Walter Becker, it captures the easy sophistication of Becker's regular band, Steely Dan. Fans of Norah Jones (whose collaborator Jesse Harris cowrote three of the songs) should gobble up this album, but Peyroux is no mere imitator: She's her own, very real thing.
The 2014 career-spanning anthology Keep Me in Your Heart for a While: The Best of Madeleine Peyroux, showcases tracks from throughout the Georgia-born, Paris-based vocalist's career. Starting with her 1996 debut album, Dreamland, and running through her 2013 studio effort The Blue Room, Keep Me in Your Heart for a While reveals Peyroux's transformation from a bluesy, Billie Holiday-influenced vocal ingenue to a mature and sophisticated interpreter of popular song, both new and old. Here we get such tracks as "La Vie en Rose," "Smile," "Between the Bars," "Dance Me to the End of Love," and more. Also included is Peyroux's previously unreleased recording of Warren Zevon's "Keep Me in Your Heart," from the film Union Square.
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.