Madeleine Peyroux: Between the Bars


Between the Bars


Madeleine Peyroux (vocals, guitar)


Careless Love (Rounder 613192)

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Madeleine Peyroux (vocals, guitar),

Larry Goldings (piano, celeste), David Piltch (bass), Jay Bellerose (drums)


Composed by Elliott Smith


Recorded: Venice, Italy and Hollywood, CA, 2003


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

It is often difficult to argue that a cover can be greater than its original, but one listen to Madeleine Peyroux's version of Elliott Smith's "Between the Bars" will have you calling "shotgun" as you hop on her bandwagon. The former Parisian street singer may not be a strikingly original stylist, but she's no mere imitator. She has the rare ability to own every song she sings in the present, regardless of who claimed it in the past. While Peyroux's smoky vocals and behind-the-beat delivery are heavily Billie Holiday- influenced, in this case the fit is perfect.

The musicians exquisitely set an after-hours mood—a gray Parisian night, fog dampening an already dim streetlamp, while Peyroux selfishly goads her companion into one more drink: "Drink up one more time and I'll make you mine / Keep you apart deep in my heart / Separate from the rest where I like you the best." Goldings's piano flourishes float off into the night, and the sizzle of Bellerose's brushes complements Peyroux's seductive yet coy impression of Smith's intimate lyrics. An absolutely magical performance.

Reviewer: Matt Leskovic

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  • 1 Mike // Aug 06, 2008 at 09:58 PM
    A lovely version of a beautiful song - but you have mis-interpreted the lyrics. The 'companion' that you refer to is drink - the song is a love song to alcohol. For my money, Elliott Smith's version is perfect, Bur Mme. Peyroux has a lovely vioce.