Jazz music certainly isn’t everyone’s bag. Even if it isn’t yours though, chances are you may have heard of Madeleine Peyroux. Trading on the jazz trope of reimagining popular tunes (albeit with a bit more freedom and usually a lot more harmonic adventurousness), her versions of classic tunes by Bob Dylan, Elliott Smith and countless others have featured on various film and T.V. soundtracks for nigh-on a decade. A child of free-spirited creative parents, Peyroux’s upbringing was scattered between her native Athens Georgia (Fun fact: Also the home of R.E.M. for those of you playing at home), Brooklyn, Southern California and most of her teenage years were spent living with her mother in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Across her six-album career to date, this cross-cultural pollination in her formative years has gone on to inform her truly unique approach to both appropriating the songs of others as well as her own keen observations as a songwriter. Here on her comprehensive new 27-track Best-Of collection Keep Me In Your Heart For a While, the best of both these worlds are perfectly distilled into great introduction for those who are yet to discover her talents.
The set opens gently with the gorgeously lazy swing of her own composition Don’t Wait Too Long. Lifted from her breakout 2004 album Careless Love and much like that record’s title track (which also appears later in the set), it proudly infuses the sophisticated sounds of her Parisian adolescence with notes of the southern twang of her birthplace. Her voice remains as intimately personal as it was ten years ago and on her take of Dylan’s You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, you’re reminded just how beautiful she can make it sound.
The immediacy of the jazz-trio backing band configuration across the majority of the two discs is both sympathetic to her incredibly dynamic voice and the songs themselves. It lends fresh life to the impeccable songwriting craft of tracks like Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me To The End of Love; a heart-wrenching, ukulele driven version of Charlie Chaplin’s Smile and possibly most sublime of all, her chilling reinterpretation of Elliott Smith’s timeless ballad of alcoholism Between The Bars. However, while the intimacy of the trio-sound is great for highlighting the purity of Peyroux’s Billie Holiday inspired croon, the lush, swooning string arrangements on the blues-inspired country lilt of Guilty or Once in a While or even with the cinematic scope of Desperadoes Under the Eaves, they do so just as spectacularly.
Her deft appreciation of and knack for folk music is well represented here as well. River of Tears from 2009’s originals album Bare Bones is a perfect example, as is The Things I’ve Seen Today and indeed the compilation’s beautifully sentimental title track, Warren Zevon’s classic Keep Me In Your Heart For a While. With all the emotional heft across both discs, tracks like Changing All Those Changes with its flittering Hammond organ flourishes or the ‘70s funk of The Kind You Can’t Afford are refreshingly fun additions.
If you’re already a fan of Peyroux’s work, Keep Me In Your Heart For a While will have you grinning from ear to ear as you journey through her diverse and impeccably delivered catalogue to date and if you’re a newcomer, you’ll quickly learn why, despite long spells in and out of the public eye, Madeleine Peyroux continues to mean so much to those who’ve been in on one of pop/jazz-crossover music’s finest vocalists, songwriters and performers.