Opening the show for Sarah McLachlan Oct. 18, Madeline Peyroux filled the Patriot Center with her seductive voice. With a simple black backdrop behind her, she stood, guitar in hand, between the two members of her band. Peyroux demanded attention.
As her deep voice echoed throughout the arena, Peyroux performed with passion to a restless audience. But instead of singing the classic blues pieces from her album, Dreamland (Atlantic Records), she performed songs unknown by much of the audience. Only 30 minutes long, the brief performance did not fully illustrate Peyroux’s amazing vocal abilities.
Her voice uncannily resembles Billy Holiday’s. Yet Peyroux, with her latest release, is making the raspy sound her own.
“I take (being compared to Holiday) as a very large compliment,” Peyroux said in a telephone interview Oct. 3. “But, I’m not there to live up to any expectations. I can present myself, in many different ways, but that’s all I can do, present myself.”
Dreamland contains classic songs from blues greats such as Bessie Smith and Patsy Cline. However, Peyroux adds her own distinct flair to each song.
“I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter” and “Walkin’ After Midnight” contain upbeat rhythms that serve as a platform for Peyroux’s youth. Although her mature voice resonates, her youthful 23 years bring a vivacity to the songs, adding a modern quality to the old classics.
Slower tracks, such as “La Vie en Rose,” flow from Peyroux’s voice with ease. With a slower rhythm, Peyroux’s voice assumes an enigmatic element that enchants the listener.
Peyroux’s musical abilities expand beyond singing. “Dreamland” garners her accolades as a songwriter as well. Her three original songs on Dreamland all comment on life, yet each conveys a different message.
“For `Dreamland,’ I was inspired by my own life experience. It was pretty much the mood I was in. The other two songs have their own story to tell. They’re people, really personality-based songs,” Peyroux said.
Peyroux gives her own songs, as well as the classics, an individuality making one clearly distinct from the next.
“(Dreamland) is a mixture of old blues to big band blues to big guitar blues. The arrangements are so varied that it makes it interesting,” Peyroux said.
Not only does Dreamland exemplify Peyroux’s engaging voice, it also wonderfully conveys her passion for music.
“Music allows for things other arts don’t allow for. It allows you to have a really spiritual connection. You can explore your spirituality so profoundly,” Peyroux said. “In music, you can ring a chord, and no matter how good or badly you’ve done it, it’s still a chord and it’s already poetry.”
With her sultry sound, Peyroux’s poetry is mesmerizing. As her voice plummets to the depths of the soul. She commands the listener to embark on a journey.
“With music, anytime you play it or put it on it’s always going to strike a chord inside you. Good music will last with you forever,” Peyroux said.
This article appeared in the October 27, 1997 issue of the Hatchet.