CD Review: 'Bare Bones' by Madeleine Peyroux
Kindred spirits: Norah Jones, Lizz Wright, Cassandra Wilson, Kate McGarry
Show: Saturday at Lisner Auditorium. Show starts at 8 p.m. 202-994-6800. http:/
Like her role models Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee and Emmylou Harris, Madeleine Peyroux allows vowels to drop from her mouth like ripened pieces of fruit: soft, round and bruised. On her first four solo albums, she mostly applied this sensual singing to material first recorded by the likes of Patsy Cline and Nat King Cole. It took her a while to figure out how to write music as seductive as her voice. She did, though, and her 11 originals sparkle on her fifth album, "Bare Bones."
She had top-drawer help. Larry Klein, Joni Mitchell's former producer and husband, is Peyroux's producer and co-wrote seven of the songs. There's a Steely Dan-ish wit to the title track ("The truth itself is nothing but a gamble/It might or might not set you free"), but Peyroux tosses off the lines with an insouciant shrug of the shoulders.
She applies the same light touch to every song. Her delivery may seem easygoing, but it's never lazy. Beneath the plump fleshiness of these songs, however, is a theme as hard and haunting as the title phrase. On "You Can't Do Me," she finds herself crawling the seas on her bony knees, while on "Our Lady of Pigalle," she's climbing cathedrals with her stony feet.
-- Geoffrey Himes