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Madeleine Peyroux

The Blue room – 2013 (Concord)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Madeleine Peyroux

Madeleine Peyroux's "The Blue Room" is part tribute to Ray Charles' special 1962 album, "Modern Sounds in Country Music," rounded out with the contemporary jazz-oriented singer's interpretations of mostly familiar songs. It's both a fascinating idea and exercise.

Peyroux's organ and pedal steel-colored singing of I Can't Stop Loving You, for instance, presents what the scenario might have been like had Peggy Lee, not Charles, recorded "Modern Sounds in Country Music." Peyroux's Like a Bird on A Wire, originally a low moan dirge at the hands of its originator, Leonard Cohen, becomes nearly a child's lullaby in Peyroux's soft hands. It's not unusual to hear contemporary artists reinterpreting music that may have influenced and inspired them along the way. However, few singers have vocal gifts like Peyroux, which allow them to completely personalize the material they rework. Peyroux's voice can have the world weariness of Billie Holiday, a trait that shows itself during Randy Newman's Guilty, yet her singing is never quite so desperate as that jazz icon.

Chances are good that some will have trouble labeling "The Blue Room" as country music, as it nearly completely sidesteps typical country stylistic elements. However, anybody with an open and adventurous listening ear will almost certainly make this one of their favorite 'rooms' in the house.