There’s no denying that the most remarkable thing about singer Madeleine Peyroux is the uncanny, almost creepy similarity her voice bears to Billie Holiday’s. Unfortunately, on her debut album, Dreamland (Atlantic), it’s hard to discern what else might recommend her. Now 22, Peyroux moved to Paris at 16 and busked on its streets for the next half decade; back in New York, surrounded by an impressive cast of hired guns (James Carter, Marc Ribot, Vernon Reid, Cyrus Chestnut, and Leon Parker among them), she’s obviously being groomed as a coffeehouse star–an Edith Piaf for the Starbucks generation, maybe. Dreamland drips with calculated eclecticism, from the quirky arrangements (instrument combinations range from sax and guitar to harmonium and trumpet) to song selection (Patsy Cline, Bessie Smith, Holiday, Piaf). Arranger and bassist Greg Cohen seems more like Svengali than producer, and there’s little doubt that this is aimed straight at pomo romantics who stay current by hanging on every move made by Tom Waits. Peyroux’s few original songs aren’t particularly impressive, but seeing her live should reveal whether she’s just a gal with a gimmick or a woman with promise. If you’ve picked up this paper on Thursday you can catch her tonight at 9 or Saturday, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Daniel Miller.