Music you should hear: Madeleine Peyroux





I’ve been a Billie Holiday fan for years (I like to tuck a white flower behind my ear from time to time and even have a black and white glossy of Lady Day performing hanging in the hall), so I was pleased to read this New York Times piece recommending Madeleine Peyroux’s sweet voice:


When I first heard Madeleine Peyroux I couldn’t help thinking of Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Edith Piaf. I was impressed that a contemporary singer was confident enough to venture into such lofty territory. Loved it. Her music is the perfect dinner party fare — and I’m not talking Muzak, I’m talking elegance. It’s relaxed and subtle enough to let conversation rule, yet so fine your guests will take note. On an outing last week I walked into an antiques shop with classical music playing in the background; it fit perfectly. Later that day we hit some vintage/consignment shops, and Billie Holiday and, yes, Madeleine Peyroux were playing in the background. Indeed, Nate Chinen in The Times described Peyroux’s voice as “a small, distinctive thing with all the weathered charm of a flea-market antique.”


Born in Athens, Ga., Ms. Peyroux grew up in Southern California and Brooklyn, and at 13 moved to Paris with her mother. By 15, she was singing in the streets. Her first album, “Dreamland” (1996), and second album, “Careless Love” (2004) (one of my favorites) — are collections of cover songs by music greats like Patsy Cline, Leonard Cohen, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan and Piaf. Her fourth solo album, “Bare Bones” (2009), features only works she composed.


Ms. Peyroux sings in a soft, husky voice, with minimal backup orchestration. Her album “The Blue Room,” released last week, has a new crossover sound touching on country and pop. Discussing the album, Charles Gans of The Associated Press writes that she “returns as a masterful interpreter of classic songs.” He continues: “Half the 10 tunes — including ‘Born to Lose,’ ‘You Don’t Know Me’ and ‘I Can’t Stop Loving You’ — are from Ray Charles’s two 1962 albums. But Peyroux’s rich tone, emotional depth and expressive story telling … seem more evocative of Patsy Cline’s crossover country pop recordings from the same era.” Ms. Peyroux keeps a low profile and eschews publicity. “The only thing that matters is the song,” she says. And she sings such lovely songs, so well.

Check her out:

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