The modern world demands that women in the A division of contemporary torch singing have a non-musical back story supplying the "edge" missing from their recordings: disability for Melody Gardot, paternity for Norah Jones, and vagrancy for Madeleine Peyroux.
Somehow that detail only exacerbates the unease that comes with Peyroux's latest set, based around a desire by producer Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell's ex) to revisit the songs Ray Charles included on his controversial Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music album half a century ago.
The boldness there was in a black man commandeering the music of the red-necks and coming out on top. None of those creating this project – singer, producer, or band-leader Larry Goldings – are people of colour, as they used to say, but then the whole remake idea seems to have dissolved along the way to include more recent tunes by Randy Newman, Warren Zevon and Leonard Cohen. The version of the latter's Bird on a Wire is low point, while Newman's Guilty is, like the opener of Hank Williams's Take These Chains, one of the fewer peaks – but the aforementioned Norah Jones has been here before, and to better effect.
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