The jazz-pop vocalist’s new collection reimagines a country classic

For many artists, a covers album often becomes a mishmash of haphazardly chosen songs that suit the singer’s voice better than they suit each other. But on The Blue Room, jazz singer Madeleine Peyroux not only interprets the work of other artists, she also pays tribute to one, Ray Charles, and his pioneering album Modern Sounds in Country  and Western Music.

“Something’s tying the songs together on this record because we started off with a theme, which I had never done before,” says Peyroux, 40. “The theme was to pay homage to Ray Charles’ record, and boy what a theme.” Modern Sounds served as a jumping-off point for The Blue Room—half of the album’s tracks are taken from the 1962 classic. Peyroux also tackles songs by Randy Newman, Leonard Cohen, Warren Zevon and Buddy Holly. Despite their eclectic backgrounds, the songs have all been cohesively reinterpreted as mellow jazz numbers accented with brushed drums and warm string arrangements.

Peyroux sees The Blue Room as a collaborative project. “It’s an amalgam of [producer] Larry Klein’s vision, Vince Mendoza’s string arrangements, the studio musicians’ ideas and the engineer’s panoramic approach to the recording process. The goal is to have something that is lasting and classic on its own. It’s not up to the vocalist to be the only thing that shines. Even in a situation where we’re making vocals the focal point, it’s the subtlety in the arrangements, playing and recording that makes these things seem simpler.”

Klein and Mendoza’s ideas for the record helped Peyroux select songs that she thought fit the Modern Sounds’ theme. “Larry was clear that he wanted to make that record with me, instead of making an homage record with tons of different artists. It made it even more personal,” she says. “That’s one of the reasons I looked for songs that had been written since this record came out, to see if I could bring myself into the spirit of the title of this record, Modern Sounds.

Peyroux believes her involvement helps achieve that goal. “All these songs were written and sung by men, “ she says, “so the fact that it’s a female voice also makes it modern.” Peyroux is also binding these songs together through a sense of American identity. “One of the things I ended up finding was this country-and-western/blues/American folk—it’s an identity, and there’s a seamlessness that runs through these songs. An old American folk song usually has that loneliness and searching quality that you might not feel from folk songs of other countries.”

–Amanda Farah

comment closed

Copyright © 2013 M Music & Musicians Magazine ·