Jazzy, smooth, and a little blue: when listening to Madeleine Peyroux, one cannot help but think of Billie Holiday’s effortless brilliance. With songs by Johnny Mercer, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and even Charlie Chaplin, Peyroux’s new album takes a leisurely stroll down a tree-lined boulevard with a glass of champagne.
The opening track, “I’m All Right,” currently enjoying regular airplay on erudite jazz stations nationwide, is the tale of a woman clearly missing her stogie-smokin’ beau and talking herself through the painful void. Peyroux’s world-weary giggling on the tune gives some insight to her warm, natural style.
“Blue Alert,” a Leonard Cohen/Anjani Thomas tune, offers the snazziest bit of warnings. To wit, if love is on the horizon, surely painful times are to come: “You cut your hand on the edge of her pleated skirt…any way you turn it’s gonna hurt.” Her duet with k.d. lang on Joni Mitchell’s “River” is a cup of hot tea while sitting in front of the fireplace during the first snow of the year. Their voices are distinctly different but flow gently together, like the freedom-giving river they sing about. “Once in a While,” co-written by Peyroux, has the chanteuse slowly moving away from bad luck while reflecting on a love long past, “I’m not looking backward for something that’s gone.”
Peyroux deftly manages an easy grasp of mood, no matter whose tune it is. Tom Wait’s “(Looking for) the Heart of Saturday Night” and “Smile” by Charlie Chaplin (love that ukulele!) both exude a light hopefulness and soft optimism much-needed in this world. Cynics, prepare to melt.