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Madeleine Peyroux: Woody Guthrie Revisited

Singing "Wild Card in the Hole," Madeleine Peyroux would have been perfectly at home when the song was written in 1949.
Courtesy of the artist
Singing "Wild Card in the Hole," Madeleine Peyroux would have been perfectly at home when the song was written in 1949.

It's easy to imagine Madeleine Peyroux standing in a dark, smoky jazz club, gardenia in her hair like Lady Day, elbow-length satin gloves caressing her mic stand as she suggestively croons, "Times are gettin' hard, folks / They might get harder still / No matter who wins office / in that Big House on the hill." She'd have been perfectly at home in 1949, the year Woody Guthrie wrote the words to "Wild Card in the Hole."

Yet there's also something thoroughly modern in Peyroux's sexy, sultry delivery. She knows she's singing words that could have been written yesterday, and she imbues them with every bit of the irony they warrant. Slyly wrapping her come-on voice around Gary Versace's Hammond B3 and Tony Scherr's electric guitar as Rob Wasserman plucks his big bass, she makes the idea of grifting suckers dry sound downright appealing. The track is one of many standouts on the Wasserman-Guthrie "collaboration," Note of Hope: A Celebration of Woody Guthrie. Like "Wild Card in the Hole," they seem as relevant now as they no doubt did the day Guthrie jotted them down.

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Lynne Margolis
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