Madeleine Peyroux has been around long enough for a Greatest Hits record, which she is touring on right now. "Keep Me in Your Heart for a While: The Best of Madeleine Peyroux" is the first anthology release of her 20-year career and probably the first of many as she's still very much going strong.
Peyroux is easily comparable to such legends as Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, but her songwriting leans closer to that of Bob Dylan and France's Serge Gainsbourg. Though her covers made her famous, it is her originals that keep her in the popular consciousness.
Her first record, 1996's "Dreamland," is primarily covers with excellent, jazzy versions of Patsy Cline's "Walkin' After Midnight" and Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose." However, it is one of her own songs, "Always a Use," that truly shows off her range as a songwriter. With lyrics like "Maybe ain't no use in singing my blues, but there's always a use in you & me" coming from her honeyed and porch swing-lazy vocals, she proves to be more than just a pretty voice.
It was another eight years before she released a follow-up, 2004's "Careless Love." The album is packed with some incredible covers like the haunting rendition of Elliott Smith's "Between the Bars" and Hank Williams' "Weary Blues," but it is once again her original, "Don't Wait Too Long," that proves the most memorable. That eight-year gap brings a rugged confidence to her voice that is much appreciated.
In 2006, "Half the Perfect World" set her on the right course with four originals intertwining with her covers of artists such as Leonard Cohen and Johnny Mercer. This led to 2009's "Bare Bones," her first album composed entirely of songs she had written or co-written. The album spans from Depression-era ballads to up-tempo jazz/rock.
Her most recent non-anthology, 2013's "The Blue Room," is a return to her interpretational style, but in an unpredictable way. "The Blue Room" adds a country-tinged flavor to Ray Charles, Randy Newman and Leonard Cohen, and features much sparser arrangements than usual. Her vocals are still subtle and underplayed, avoiding massive pitch changes and trills for simple beauty and excellence.
Peyroux takes tracks from all of her earlier work and adds a new cover to "Keep Me in Your Heart For a While": Warren Zevon's "Keep Me in Your Heart." This greatest hits album really demonstrates her versatility from her stripped down, sultry "Between the Bars" to her Randy Newman or Buddy Holly offerings.
Stylistically, the Athens, Georgia-born Peyroux leans toward Sad Old Ballads, but her voice, honed from years of street busking in Paris and traveling Europe, never lets the work become repetitive. Touring with these classics should bring an entirely new audience to her work: those familiar with the originals and a newer generation appreciating the throwback timelessness of her voice.
Tuesday, March 22, 7 pm
Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St., Bend