Madeleine Peyroux's extraordinary journey is one of music industry’s most compelling.
Eight albums and 22 years since her debut Dreamland, Peyroux continues to challenge the confines of jazz, venturing into the fertile fields of contemporary music with unfading curiosity.
Peyroux’s new album, Anthem, finds the singer-songwriter collaborating with writers/musicians Patrick Warren (Bonnie Raitt, JD Souther, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Lana Del Rey, The Red Hot Chilli Peppers), Brian MacLeod (Sara Bareilles, Leonard Cohen, Tina Turner, Ziggy Marley) and David Baerwald (Joni Mitchell, David and David, Sheryl Crow), who are also the basic rhythm section players on the album. Together, they cast a sober, poetic, and at times philosophical eye on the current state of the world.
Produced and co-written by Larry Klein, the album came to life during the pivotal 2016 US elections, with the writers absorbing a “constant stream of news” over many months. The “consciously not too preachy” songs, fuse Peyroux’s, at times political outlook, with glimpses into her personal world. Honed and patiently refined with fellow writers they mix the public with the personal, striking that perfect equilibrium of dark humour and compassion.
Anthem is an album born out of the team being “together in one room, musing over world events and letting personal experiences spark ideas”. David Baerwald’s sadness over the passing of poet John Ashbery, ignited thoughts of much admired figures lost over the years and paved the path for All My Heroes. Baerwald’s loss gave rise to feelings of awe at these figures’ trailblazing ability to guide and “light fires in the shadows”, but also brought to light their very human vulnerability.
Inspiration for the evocative Lullaby, written by Baerwald, Klein, MacLeod, Peyroux and Warren, came from “the image of a solitary woman in the midst of a vast open sea singing to her child, or possibly herself, as she faces the chasm of the world.” With engaging empathy, the song paints a haunting picture of the displaced person’s desperation, as she is tormented by memories of “a time before the war”, in a boat paddling towards the unknown.
Anthem weaves the colourful stories of people confronting life's challenges in a multitude of ways. With pathos and a hint of irony it laments over financial tribulations in Down On Me, speaks of disappointment and unfulfilled dreams in the bluesy Ghosts of Tomorrow and delivers a scathingly poignant social commentary in The Brand New Deal. Coming ten years after Bare Bones, the singer-songwriter’s previous album of original songs, Anthem finds Peyroux wiser with finer articulation powers. Inspired by her idol Leonard Cohen’s ability to “suffer for the work, but still present the listener with just a friendly thought”, Peyroux sends a spiritual but clear message of hope, optimism and resilience in the face of a turbulent reality.