Though vocalist Madeleine Peyroux’s name stands alone above the title, Anthem is a supreme example of ensemble work. Its core contributors—Peyroux, bassist (and producer) Larry Klein, drummer Brian MacLeod, guitarists Dean Parks and David Baerwald, pianist Patrick Warren, and organist Pete Kuzma—exercise equal influence and demonstrate equal finesse, abetted by stellar guests, including Luciana Souza and Grégoire Maret. The shared ingeniousness extends to the playlist, all originals save the Leonard Cohen title track and an adaptation of the Paul Éluard poem “Liberté,” conjointly shaped by Baerwald, Klein, MacLeod, Peyroux, and Warren. All dozen tracks were provided the freedom to grow and evolve organically in the studio, to “choose their own path,” as Peyroux notes in accompanying press materials.
Understandably, given the confluence of talent, the tracks are tremendously dense, saturated with individual and collective inspiration. These are, by and large, everyman anthems, survivalist jazz for tough times. Drugs, booze, and a miscellany of hardships and crutches loom large in such selections as “Party Tyme,” “Down on Me,” “On a Sunday Afternoon” and the cautiously hopeful “The Ghosts of Tomorrow,” while “The Brand New Deal” dissects the current sociopolitical landscape’s morass. But there’s also solace in the seductively joyful “Honey Party” and magical “We Might As Well Dance.” It’s an exhilarating trip—bold, intense, deeply insightful—that leads to a becalmed close, a bonus cover, Peyroux and company nodding to lost innocence with the wistful “Last Night When We Were Young.”