Melody Gardot Doesn't Sing About Nonsense

Portrait of Melody Gardot

You might expect pianist/singer-songwriter Melody Gardot's introspective, jazz-flavored tracks to be reminiscent of Norah Jones, whose debut album preceded hers by a few years. But you'd be wrong. If Norah Jones is the shy, nice girl sipping chamomile tea in a Brooklyn coffeehouse, Melody Gardot is her slightly dissipated roommate who stays out too late in the wrong sorts of bars, getting involved with the wrong sorts of men.

Men play a large role in Gardot's songs. Her lyrics hardly ever mention other women. There is her - Melody - and there are the men she describes as having strong hands and black hearts; men who love her "like the earth itself." This is not middle-school puppy love. This is complex, angry, sweaty, very grown-up stuff. Which is not to say that it's self-absorbed or salacious; it is neither. Gardot's first three albums - 2007's "Worrisome Heart," 2009's "My One and Only Thrill," and 2012's "The Absence," introduced her as a "baggage-free, modern day dame" with a timeless sound and a refreshingly candid take on contemporary romance. Expertly helmed by Grammy-award winning producer Larry Klein, Gardot's wine-soaked vocals soar over spare arrangements of tasteful instrumentation.

Portrait of Melody Gardot

In 2014, Gardot shifted her perspective a bit. "Currency of Man" her fourth album, was influenced by current events (particularly the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina), as well as historical injustices (the lynching of Emmett Till). The record alternates bittersweet love songs with tracks that excoriate corrupt politicians, soulless preachers, and the cold, unfeeling world in general. Instrumentation became more varied, with strings and horns playing a more prominent role in the mix. Again produced by Klein, a sonic tapestry of exquisite musicianship makes the perfect background to her raw-throated vocals.

On this record, notably on "Same to You" and "It Gonna Come," Gardot seems to step into the shoes of a fire-and-brimstone preacher, evoking Jeremiah's divine warning: "I will pour out their own evil upon them." In her world, the officials who let New Orleans drown would find their own just desserts waiting for them in the muddy waters of Lake Pontchartrain.

Five years later, Gardot released 2020's "Sunset In the Blue," followed shortly thereafter by "Entre Eux Deux," a collaboration with Philippe Powell. Now in her mid-30s, Gardot's last two albums are infused with a world-weary, older-but-wiser vibe that suits her well. Whether standing in the spotlight alone, or sharing it with Powell, she continues to bring a singular and fully-realized vision to the world of music.