Let’s face it. No one can replicate the one and only Ray Charles; therefore, it’s a no brainer that on her new album, The Blue Room, Madeleine Peyroux and her longtime producer Larry Klein take the opposite direction in reinterpreting Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, a cultural landmark album.
The mega hit “I Can’t Stop Loving You” is a perfect example. Whereas Charles built up the tune with his soulful, poignant reading, Peyroux strips the emotion down to its core and gives the lyrics a new life. The vibe is still heart-breaking, but in a much subtler way.
With “Bye Bye Love,” she slows down the tempo to focus on the song’s narrative and gives the tune an elegant swing courtesy of the tasteful accompaniment from Larry Goldings, Dean Parks, David Piltch and Jay Bellerose. With “Take These Chains,” however, she covers the tune in a mid-tempo rather than slow allowing Vince Mendoza’s sensational string arrangement to flow hypnotically around her voice.
In addition to covering Charles’s, Peyroux wisely selected newer materials that carry similar feels into the album. In her reading of Randy Newman’s “Guilty,” one could imagine how Ray Charles would have taken this song, elevated it with his soul and made it his own. While Peyroux reminds me nothing of Charles, she makes me want to go back to Brother Ray’s Birth of the Soul.