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Madeleine Peyroux – Secular Hymns – Impulse!

Madeleine Peyroux – Secular Hymns – Impulse!/Verve B0025437-02 33:33****

An album that has an interesting texture and a solid groove.

(Madeleine Peyroux – vocals, acoustic guitar, guileless; John Herrington – electric guitar, vocals; Barak Mori – upright bass, vocals)

“Short but sweet” might be the appropriate description of the latest Madeleine Peyroux release entitled Secular Hymns. Clocking in at just over 33 minutes, the album is brief even by old LP standards. That is not to say the music does not fill and fulfill the time available. It does in a funky bluesy way.

Recorded in a live setting at the parish church of  Saint Mary the Virgin in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, UK,  Peyroux and her cohorts guitarist John Herrington and bassist Barak Mori deliver a mostly acoustic set of cover tunes from blues, gospel and Americana. Mature of voice, but still with a vague hint of Billie Holiday lurking, Peyroux conveys the right blend of empathy and warmth as the launches into “Got You On My Mind”.

With the requisite tango beat established by the arco bass of Barak Mori, the band sashays into Tom Waits’ “Tango Till They’re Sore” with Peyroux’s vocal reading both engaging and thoughtful. Allen Toussaint, who was an important figure in New Orleans soul and R&B, and who died on November 10, 2015, wrote “Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On). Despite what might be considered as a limitation with a three person combo, the band lays down a tight rockin’ beat, with Peyroux offering a sure-footed  interpretation of the number.

Reaching back to the nineteenth century, Peyroux has chosen Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More” to give a stripped-down folk rendition to the evocative number. Shifting gears, Peyroux uses Linton Kweshi Johnson’s reggae paean “More Time” to expound a subtler and pithy version of the tune.

When R&B veterans like Bill Doggett and Lucky Millinder combine forces with gospel queen Sister Rosetta Tharpe the result is “Shout Sister Shout”. Peyroux and band show their understanding of the history of the number by the exuberance displayed in its delivery. Madeleine Peyroux has produced an album that has an interesting texture and a solid groove.

TrackList: Got You On My Mind; Tango Till They’re  Sore; The Highway Kind; Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On); If The Sea Was Whisky; Hard Times Come Again No More; Hello Babe; More Time; Shout Sister Shout; Trampin’

—Pierre Giroux

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