Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bare Bones

I had to live with the new Madeleine Peyroux CD for a while…listen it to more than few times…before its charms revealed themselves to me more fully. Bare Bones is not as immediately accessible as her previous two collections (Half the Perfect World and Careless Love) but its highpoints are on par with the best tunes from those two delightful albums.

Unlike her past couple of albums, which featured a mixture of original tunes and cannily chosen cover songs, this one consists completely of original tunes (all of which were written or co-written by Peyroux.)

The first few tunes…the wistfully optimistic “Instead”, the quietly lilting title track, and the rueful “Damn the Circumstances”…have the same downcast, plaintive feel and that threatens to weigh down the proceedings with a brooding sameness. But, in all the cases, the strength of the lyrics (musical hooks are hard to come by) makes the songs work. The same is true for “River of Tears”.

The sprightly…and devilishly witty…”You Can’t Do Me” is a welcome change of pace when it turns up.

The second half of the CD glides sweetly between somber numbers…”Love and Treachery” and “Homeless Happiness”…and more upbeat tunes…”To Love You All Over Again”…with Peyroux’s charming and evocative vocals (yes, she has distinct reflections of Billie Holiday in her voice…that’s going to come up every time she puts out a record…but hey in her case it’s definitely a good thing.)

I had to live with it…play it while snuggled next to a friend…dance idly to it…find echoes of my own experience in the world…but Bare Bones proved worth the investment of time and attention. It’s not perfect…several of the songs would have been better served with shorter running times and tighter hooks…but it is, to quote the marvelous closing song, “Somethin’ Grand” just the same.

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