Madeleine Takes Manhattan

Peyroux on tour with “Half the Perfect World”

There is just something about her voice. You know it the minute you hear her sing the first few notes of a song. It’s the way her voice trembles and reverberates with the depth and richness reminiscent of vocalists like Billie Holiday and Peggy Lee. Madeleine Peyroux has a way of phrasing each word with a uniqueness that makes her songs individual and elegant, peaceful and soothing, sophisticated and reflective. While she has been recording music for ten years, the release on September 12 of “Half the Perfect World,” is only her third album.

Peyroux was born in Georgia and grew up in Paris after moving there, following her parents’ divorce, with her mother a French teacher. Gaining experience singing with groups of street musicians in the Latin Quarter, she later moved to New York where she was spotted performing in a club in New York by an Atlantic Records talent scout, who signed her and produced her first CD “Dreamland.” Released in 1996, “Dreamland” impressed critics and fans the world over with Peyroux’s unique and memorable brand of interpretations of classic songs by Bessie Smith and Patsy Cline in addition to her own dynamic and original compositions.

Peyroux took eight years before releasing her second album, “Careless Love.” Well worth the wait, her second release was bluesy, sultry, and exceedingly diverse with an even greater assortment of retooled classics by Gene Austin, William C. Handy, and Hank Williams, to name a few.

“Half the Perfect World,” again flawlessly produced by Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Shawn Colvin), brings Peyroux’s artistry to a level that is sometimes soothing, sometimes evocative and anything but predictable. The album includes sharps contrasts and brave choices in the songs selections giving Peyroux the opportunity to demonstrate her subtle yet wide range in vocal styling against a varied background of contrasting arrangements that work beautifully together. “This record is different from “Careless Love” in the sense that there’s unison of joy on it,” Peyroux says of “Half.” “It’s pushing certain boundaries for me…This record has me taking more leaps in every song, partly because these are different kinds of songs than the songs I’ve previously covered.”

Peyroux, Larry Klein and Steely Dan’s Walter Becker collaborated on the albums opening track with an upbeat oxymoron in verse titled “I’m All Right.” Although cheery and gleeful, Peyroux laments the demise of her relationship with painful lyrics about the loss of love. Another original song reunites the writing team of Peyroux, Grammy Award winning songwriter Jesse Harris and Larry Klein, titled “Once in a while.” “Working with a team that I’ve already worked with, and knowing how amazing they are…The depth of collaboration and self-expression among all of us is what defines the essence of this album.” A haunting and beautifully crafted tune, “Once in a While” as the lyrics reveals with a hint of regret the loss of love as she sings “Once in a while I’ll wake up/Wondering why we gave up/But once in a while/Comes and fades away.”

While “River” by Joni Mitchell has been recorded many artists before, Peyroux’s languishing duet featuring the instantly recognizable k.d.lang plays like as an intimate, and tender connection between two lovers. The women are so gentle with each other you almost forget the sadness of the lyrics.

“These love songs all come from an extremely personal place,” says Peyroux “and therefore allowed me a most intimate reading.” The cycles of love from beginning to end has a multitude of shades, colors, and stages. Clearly Peyroux has chosen to focus on a theme of moving past the loss of love for the twelve songs on “Half.” From the classic heartbreaker “The Summer Wind” to the album closer, Chapin’s “Smile,” the singer encourages us toward happiness. Peyroux’s most intimate and personal work to date “Half the Perfect World” is an album of love survivor’s anthems sung with grace, elegance and a special flair.

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