I fell in love with Madeleine Peyroux right from the opening track of Careless Love, a cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me To The End Of Love,” and I remained under her spell throughout the entire album. I would suffer through many late nights in smoke-filled clubs just to allow myself the momentary delusion that we made eye contact because she makes both joy and heartbreak sound so good.
Madeleine has an amazing, sultry voice, reminiscent of a siren’s call. Not only does she become the character of the story she’s singing, she pulls both your mind and heart into the story with her, and sings directly to you. Her voice vacillates across the border between happiness and sadness, yet never completely crosses over into one state; no matter what the song’s mood, you never forget that love is a double-edge sword.
Critics relentlessly compare her sound to Billie Holiday, and yes, she does have a low, soft yet strong, sensual singing voice; however, more than that, Peyroux shares Holiday’s ability to take over a song and make it her own. She is fearless and not just because she tackles some of Holiday’s songs, which guarantee comparisons, but she also covers work by other musical giants: blues man W.C. Handy, country legends Hank Williams and Gene Autry, and present-day artists Bob Dylan and Elliot Smith. She even sings Josephine Baker’s “J’ai Deux Amours” in French. Ugh, how did she know foreign languages make me weak in the knees?
The band shuffles along at a dreamy pace that matches Peyroux’s voice. The music is fantastic and the album is suited for lying in bed on gray, rainy days or drinking alone all night. The band isn’t getting the credit they are due, so let me put an end to that injustice. They are Dean Parks (g), Larry Goldings (k), David Piltch (b) and Jay Bellerose (d). Minor players include Lee Thornburg on a muted trumpet on Hank William’s “Weary Blues,” and Scott Amendola plays brushes on “I’ll Look Around.” Hopefully, they will stay together and continue to make music.