On Careless Love, and especially on her fine new album Half the Perfect World, she has searched out material that makes her into a more contemporary personality — and makes the feeling of dislocation expressed in the lyrics seem her own instead of someone else's. She performs songs by Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, and, on the new album, Fred Neil — "Everybody's Talkin'," which she makes entirely her own. Her music now features electric guitars and, sometimes, a pedal steel. And her original songs are gaining focus and edge. Applying her quiet jazz to the sophisticated songwriting of a later era, Peyroux is making listeners forget the Billie Holiday thing even as she keeps the uncanny sound of that tragic figure.
Madeleine Peyroux's cool remoteness in concert tends to put some people off, but others are plainly fascinated by the woman behind the mask. How the next stage of this story will play out in a space the size of Hill ought to be fascinating in itself.
[Review published November 2007]