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Album Review: Madeleine Peyroux's 'Standing on the Rooftop'

June 13, 2011 |  6:31 pm

  Madeleine Peyroux Cover phiss

The title of Madeleine Peyroux’s 1996 debut, “Dreamland,” served early notice of this jazz singer’s devotion to a kind of sonic sleepiness. On her albums since then — particularly 2004’s “Careless Love,” which became something of a middlebrow hit after Starbucks began selling it — Peyroux and her various collaborators have deepened that aesthetic. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say they’ve lightened it: Though uniformly lovely, “Bare Bones,” from 2009, threatened to float away on the designer wings of its wispy cafe-folk sound.

Despite its airy title, “Standing on the Rooftop” brings Peyroux a bit closer to Earth. Interrupting her longtime partnership with producer Larry Klein, the singer made the album under the supervision of Craig Street, who’s known for his work with Cassandra Wilson and k.d. lang; Street paired Peyroux with edgier instrumentalists including Marc Ribot on guitar and Meshell Ndegeocello on bass.

Here their playing creates some valuable tension beneath Peyroux’s still-placid singing, as in the title track, where Ribot’s nagging electric-guitar riff seems to be hurrying (or trying to hurry) the vocal along. Even better is “The Kind You Can’t Afford,” which Peyroux co-wrote with Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones. As the singer glides over Ndegeocello’s taut, funk-informed bass line, she sounds newly awakened to a fresh range of nighttime activities.

Madeleine Peyroux
“Standing on the Rooftop”
Three stars (Out of four)


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—Mikael Wood