Madeleine Peyroux | Bare Bones

Rounder (2009)
By JON GARELICK  |  March 3, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

You could say that Peyroux's third album for Rounder in five years is just more of the same — same Billie Holiday timbre and phrasing, and producer Larry Klein again brings that chamber-ensemble intimacy and precise deployment of vintage instruments (fiddle, Hammond organ, Wurlitzer piano, Estey keyboard). None of which is a bad thing.

The opening "Instead" kicks in with swing-jazz four-to-the-bar acoustic-guitar chording and slapping brushes, and then Peyroux's upward-bending alto folds into the whine of Klein's Estey. Perfect. Acoustic-guitar jazz-swing dominates, even when it drifts into folk, country, or, in one case, soul rock ("You Can't Do Me," with female backing vocals). The difference is that, working with a handful of other writers (mostly Klein, plus Julian Coryell, Joe Henry, even Steely Dan's Walter Becker), Peyroux has produced an album of originals instead of her usual mostly-covers affair.

Whatever the process, it works. "Love and Treachery" is probably the best Leonard Cohen song Leonard Cohen never wrote, and every tune here has its distinct groove and mood (variations on melancholy resignation laced with humor and wised-up self-empowerment). Peyroux still sounds like Peyroux, only more so. Which isn't a bad thing either.
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