The original impetus behind singer-songwriter Madeleine Peyroux’s new “The Blue Room” was to create a contemporary homage to Ray Charles’s 1962 “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.” Which makes sense. Charles’s album was a groundbreaking fusion of genres — the king of R&B delivering an album of country standards, replete with strings and swooning female backup choruses. Just as genre-bending — if less radical these days — is Peyroux’s reflection of contemporary folk and pop through a lens of old swing and blues. So now, with “The Blue Room,” she’s laid her own fusion on top of Charles’s.
If that sounds a bit meta, don’t be alarmed. “The Blue Room” is, in part, Madeleine Peyroux covering Ray Charles’s covers of country tunes, but it’s also distinctly a Madeleine Peyroux album. So even though there’s a full string section backing most tracks, all the Peyroux markers are here: the swing and shuffle rhythms, the spare backing band of guitars and vintage keyboards, and Peyroux’s laid-back, Billie Holiday purr of a voice. And what’s more, there are three post-Ray covers (by Leonard Cohen, John Hartford, Warren Zevon) and a dash of Buddy Holly.