Madeleine Peyroux

Falling over in the forest

Georgia-born and French-raised Madeleine Peyroux has a voice that could calm crying babies or a venue packed with jazz-hungry fans, but that doesn't mean she puts on a great show. This is not to suggest that her voice — which has been compared to Billie Holiday's and interprets and bends classics by everyone from Edith Piaf to Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and Tom Waits into wholly new experiences as good as, if not better than, the originals — is at fault in any way. Peyroux is just a lousy performer who usually looks so uncomfortable onstage that audiences can't help but pay as much attention to her discomposure as they do her singing. She is utterly safe and undaring up there, a perfect expression of what's to be found on her CDs without any flourish and nary a smile. Maybe one day she'll grow into the role of a performer — which is weird to suggest, since she started her career as a busker on the streets of Paris — but, for now, the experience is just as good as downloading her latest, Half the Perfect World, onto your iPod and going for a walk through the local park.

 
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