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May 2009

Melody Gardot
My One and Only Thrill
Verve

There’s a film noir quality to Melody Gardot’s latest. Even on upbeat numbers like the gently flowing “If the Stars Were Mine” and simmering “Our Love Is Easy,” there’s the hint of smoky inscrutability, a sepia-toned sense of Gene Tierney or Gloria Grahame or Lauren Bacall lurking in dim-lit corners, contemplating a sin just committed or one about to unfold. It is an aura that seems utterly appropriate, since Gardot writes and sings precisely the way Bacall looked during her first flush of Bogart-heightened fame: sultry, mysterious, with a subtle touch of disdain built on a solid foundation of self-assurance.

Listening to these densely layered tales of love lost, love found, unrequited love and love’s sinister illusions, it’s as if a mellowed Nina Simone had invaded the sweetly melancholic territory of Billie Holiday. Surely, too, the sage choice of Larry Klein as producer contributes to the album’s twilit allure, since Klein has worked the same shadowy magic with Madeleine Peyroux and his ex-wife, Joni Mitchell. Ironically, the only track that doesn’t sound as if it just escaped from a vintage Warner Bros. soundstage is the one that actually hails from that period, the album’s sole cover, a carefree reading of “Over the Rainbow” that rides atop a gentle samba beat.

Originally published in May 2009
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