2016 marks Madeleine Peyrouxs twentieth anniversary as a recording artist with the release of Secular Hymns, a spirited and soulful masterwork of loping, skipping, sassy, feisty and sexy tunes delivered in a captivating melange of funk, blues and jazz.
With her trio that had been touring together for two years electric guitarist Jon Herington and upright bassist Barak Mori Peyroux set out to record in a live setting a collection of songs that have their own hymn-like stories of self-awareness and inner dialogue, a communal consciousness and a spiritual essence.
Music has been our spiritual life, she says. So I think of these as hymns, secular hymns songs that are very individual, personal, introverted.
Madeleine Peyroux intimately renders tunes by seminal blues artists (two penned by Willie Dixon and one by Lil Green), the classic gospel singer Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the under-the-radar dub star Linton Kwesi Johnson, three renowned contemporary composers (Tom Waits, Townes Van Zandt, Allen Toussaint), the 19th century composer Stephen Foster (considered to be the first great songwriter in America) and ending with a traditional African-American spiritual.
A note from Madeleine,
The story starts with a concert in the countryside of England in the tiny village of Great Milton, Oxfordshire, where we were invited to play by Raymond Blanc for Belmond Le Manoir in October 2015. Saint Marys church dates back to Norman times. Its small, musty, stone and wooden reverb is rich with ten centuries of history. This is where I heard the sound for this record, enveloped in the bosom of a soulful room.
Guitarist Jon Herington, upright bassist Barak Mori, and I had been building our trio repertoire for two years, playing all kinds of rooms, exploring the intimate in all kinds of music blues, gospel, Americana, even dub reggae. Each song we added gave me a sense of awe, a reverence for the small, everyday trials of our lives. They are personal, disarming and honest, and they come from all kinds of places and eras. But their rendering, if only by its sincerity, intends to share a universal message. Somehow I felt this little church gave us the sanctuary we needed for that to be heard.
We returned the following January to record, including a performance for the local townspeople. Post concert I received a most gracious compliment, that our show filled the hall with spiritual humanism. This is the result of those recordings and it is in this vein that I titled the album Secular Hymns.