Album Reviews

Madeleine Peyroux – Let’s Walk

(Just One Recordings) UK release date: 28 June 2024

American singer-songwriter’s latest offering is a return to form, featuring surprises, diversity and humour

Madeleine Peyroux - Let's Walk Throughout her career, Madeleine Peyroux has mostly been known as an interpreter of other people’s songs. Although she’s co-written a lot of her material, her breakthrough record in the UK, 2004’s Careless Love, consisted mostly of cover versions of tracks by Bob Dylan, Elliott Smith and Hank Williams.

Twenty years after Careless Love, Peyroux has written all ten songs on Let’s Walk, and if you’re used to hearing Peyroux as the uber-tasteful balladeer in the mode of Norah Jones, you could be in for a few surprises. Long-term fans need not worry though – it’s not as if Peyroux is suddenly dabbling in death metal or dropping some DnB remixes, but Let’s Walk does show that there’s a lot more to her than a standard jazz vocalist.

Opening track Find True Love is a lovely slice of restrained folk, opened by a gently strummed acoustic guitar before Peyroux’s band kicks in. It’s not a million miles from Peyroux’s trademark style, but in its wistful yearning for some kind of healing after the pandemic, it seems impossibly poignant.

Let’s Walk is Peyroux’s first album for six years, and many of the songs date back from 2020. There’s a social awareness to many of the tracks on the album – the mournful waltz of How I Wish was written in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder and examines how Peyroux, as a white person, can be the best BLM ally. Her sad sigh of “no more, no more” towards the end of the song reminds you just what a powerful singer she can be, without the need for any vocal acrobatics.

The title track is also inspired by protest and social justice, although this is a far more upbeat number – it’s a gospel-style call and response written about her experiences on the Black Lives Matter marches: “let us advance our mortal bodies up, where hearts and minds will go”. It may not be the most incendiary call to arms, but its sound of solidarity and togetherness make it sound all the more effective.

As you’d expect from a former resident of Paris, there’s a few Gallic touches too, most notably on the jazzy Et Puis (sung entirely in French) which has a few nods to Edith Piaf in its delivery, while Showman Dan – a tribute to her late friend and mentor, street musician Danny Fitzgerald – is a full on New Orleans voodoo blues workout. At the other end of the scale is the desperately sad Nothing Personal, which is a powerful recollection of Peyroux’s own experience of sexual assault.

Take Care is a perfect closer, opening like a lost Vampire Weekend song before developing into a riotous spoken-word warning about the state of the environment and the world in general – “If you wanna be selfish, cutthroat, and mean, join the elite, take the cash, be obscene! No wonder I’m always lost in a daze escaping in movies and games and malaise”. It’s a darkly funny and thought provoking song on which to end on, and a prime example of the diversity and humour that makes this quite possibly the best Madeleine Peyroux record in twenty years.

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More on Madeleine Peyroux
Madeleine Peyroux – Let’s Walk
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Madeleine Peyroux @ Royal Festival Hall, London
Madeleine Peyroux – Bare Bones
Madeleine Peyroux @ Symphony Hall, Birmingham