Madeleine Peyroux – Bare Bones

January 01, 1970




Madeleine Peyroux has a voice that’s special. Quietly sultry
and smoky, nonchalantly conversational yet also soothingly melodic and jazzily stylized,
it has earned her deserved comparisons to Billie Holiday. Coupled with the
choice in material by the likes of Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Fred Neil and Joni
Mitchell on her first two Larry Klein-produced Rounder albums, Careless Love and Half the Perfect World, she seemed a far more than half-perfect
interpreter of post-rock standards. Good as they were, Bare Bones is a
substantial jump forward.


She has had a hand in writing ten of the 11 tracks; and
written one – “I Must Be Saved,” lovely and wistful, like Blood on the
era Dylan – by herself. Klein again produces, as well as helping
with the songwriting, and the arrangements are tastefully folk-jazz with rock
underpinnings. Because he was married to Joni Mitchell and collaborated with
her on her many attempts at singer-songwriter jazz, you can’t help observing
that Bare Bones sounds like the album Mitchell probably wanted to make
after Court and Spark, had her spiky sensibilities not undermined the
lyricism of her efforts.


Klein and Peyroux’s “River of Tears,”
for instance, has a gorgeously dreamy romanticism; you can get lost in its
fluidity. The title song, inspired by a book by Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, is
one of two standouts co-written with Steely Dan’s Walter Becker, and the
gently-rockin’ guitar work recalls “Do It Again.” The other
Becker-Klein-Peyroux tune, the irresistible “You Can’t Do Me,” has a Maria
Muldaur-style naughtiness that includes the memorable lines, “screwed like a
high-school cheerleader” and “spanked like a fly on a bar counter.” Other
songs, co-written by Joe Henry, David Batteau and Julian Coryell, are also
strong – you’ll hear the influences of Waits, Cohen, Mitchell, Randy Newman and


Standout Tracks:
“Bare Bones,” “Love and Treachery” STEVEN ROSEN




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