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49 years is a long time to do anything, but believe it or not, Maria Muldaur has been performing for nearly half a century, with no signs of slowing down, as evidenced by her latest release for Stony Plain, Steady Love. [T]here's so much more to this lady's talent than indicated by that perennial favorite. She's performed and recorded every brand of American Roots music since her debut recording in 1963... Throughout her musical odyssey, two factors have remained constant in her career, the blues and the sounds of New Orleans. Steady Love is her first full-fledged tribute to the music of the Crescent City and for the occasion, she has joined up with an All-Star cast of musicians...to lay out her brand of Crescent City goodness, which she calls "Bluesiana music." Muldaur sounds fantastic. Her vocals have grown richer and huskier over the years, which suits this material perfectly. Steady Love is the kind of disc that will appeal not just to blues fans, but to music fans in general. It ranks high among Muldaur's best releases.~ Grahm Clarke, Phoenix Blues Society: Bluesbytes, 10/25/11
Muldaur has one foot in church and another in a Saturday night juke joint as she belts out hand-clapping church rousers, soul ballads and greasy swamp stompers. Over the years her voice has only gotten better, with her pipes now displaying a lusty, full-bodied resonance.On "Steady Love" the 68-year-old proves she's one hot N'awlins mama who is way beyond that Oasis at midnight.~ Eric Feber, The Pilot, 10/12/11
The Will Rogers Center in Saranac Lake in way-upstate New York is an unlikely venue for a performance...but the big old building...converted readily into a combination rock hall and church when the incomparable Maria Muldaur took the stage... Currently touring the country with her "Bluesiana" band to promote the bran new CD Steady Love, a high energy mix of blues and Swamp Funk recorded with a stellar group of "A-Team" players, Ms. Muldaur's return engagement to Will Rogers was a smashing success. Opening with her iconic anthem "I'm A Woman", she followed that with a rendition of Elvin Bishop's rocking and poignant "I'll Be Glad", (if you don't know this song, you are hereby strongly advised to search out both Elvin's and Maria's versions). She then took us to church with the Soul Stirrers gospel number "I Don Made IT Up In My Mind (To Serve God Till I Die)" and had the audience on their feet and dancing in the aisles. ...[T]he concert could have ended right there but Maria went on for another hour. "Midnight at the Oasis" was as sexy and sassy as ever, as is the wonderful and beautiful Ms. Muldaur, a stalwart figure of Americana music who shows no signs of letting up or slowing down.~ Victor Forbes, Fine Arts Magazine, 10/2/11
"Soul & grit" emanates from Muldaur's voice on every track of this impressive CD – Muldaur and the band excel at all levels. A triumph!~ Mick Rainsford, Blues in Britain, 10/6/11
[Her latest release, STEADY LOVE] continues the winning streak she's been on for the last decade and finds a clearly energized Muldaur in New Orleans surrounded by a first rate assembly of musicians and a large cast of background vocalists including daughter, Jenni Muldaur. With her characteristic sly, sexy vocals, she dips into swampy funk...[The] title track is a top notch slab of southern soul and the Percy Mayfield classic, Please Send Someone to Love gets a slow torchy treatment that showcases Muldaur's [soulful] vocal chops. While she is no longer the young chanteuse that made Midnight at the Oasis such a sexy come on in 1974, the intervening years have added a knowing wink to Muldaur's voice that makes it real clear when she sings on Arthur Adam's Get You Next To Me "If you want my Peaches/you better shake my tree" only a fool would turn down the invitation. Steady Love is a fine entry into Muldaur's immense catalog of great music."~ Mark Smith, Blues Source, 10/17/11
Maria Muldaur is something of a one-woman musical preservation society. [Maria Muldaur is] a woman with the chops and savvy to interpret just about anything and make it her own. With Steady Love, Muldaur returns to a more all-encompassing sound she calls 'bluesiana,' and the results, if considerably more eclectic, are equally stellar. Working in New Orleans with a hand-picked backing band, she explores the tangled web of blues, soul and gospel, in the process showing just how closely related they all are.
It's a decidedly more [contemporary] collection...with only one song falling into 'traditional' territory. The catchy but snarling unison guitar intro that kicks off Elvin Bishop's "Ill Be Glad" serves notice that this is no leisurely stroll down memory lane. Guitarist Shane Theriot's tone and attack and the crisp production are thoroughly contemporary, and once the band locks into the song's groove they simply don't let up. Bobby Charles' classic "Why Are People Like That" follows, and again the band ...absolutely nails it, with Theriot contributing another snarling solo. David Torkanowsky, typically brilliant as both pianist and arranger, serves as musical director for the project, and it shows in the snappy rhythms and deep grooves - this band cooks! Muldaur's interpretive skills are as sharp as ever; she can make any song her own, but she's been around long enough to know what works best for her sultry, earthy delivery. She's thoroughly convincing on every tune here, whether it's the swaggering, sexy strut of "Soulful Dress" or the plaintive pleading on Percy Mayfield's immortal "Please Send Me Someone To Love"... The gospel thread throughout is particularly strong, with a mid-set cluster of three spiritual numbers....None are overtly religious, though – Muldaur's spiritually isn't particularly specific, and even if you're not a believer, you'll believe Muldaur – and...that's what's important in the end!
If there's an underlying theme to the collection, it's simply that there is a thread that connects this music. There are echoes here of the way Ray Charles turned gospel into secular gold, and Muldaur shows that spirituality can still rock out –the sacred and the profane aren't all that far apart, and spirituality can still temper earthly desire without corrupting the former or diluting the latter. There's not a single weak outing in Muldaur's now-extensive discography, but this just might be one of her best. Highly recommended!~ John Taylor, Blinded by Sound, 10/7/11
Muldaur will probably forever be best known for her 1974 hit single, Midnight at the Oasis," but her voice has taken on a honeyed raspiness now nearly four decades later that's well-suited for Steady Love's selection of electric blues numbers. Highlights include Elvin Bishop's stomping "I'll Be Glad" and the traditional "I Done Made it Up in My Mind" where a J.J. Cale-style rhythm turns the gospel number into a full-blown dancin'-on-the-pews choogler. Fans of Little Feat will dig the slinky N'awlins flavor of "Walk by Faith," while Rain Down Tears" will win over fans of Bonnie Raitt.... It's hard to imagine Muldaur singing..."Midnight at the Oasis" at this point, [because] Steady Love reflects a richness of something much better – a lifetime of experience and character.~ Kevin Wierzbicki, Campus Circle, 10/7/11
STEADY LOVE is an expressive album of emotionally charged blues material delivered by a vocal powerhouse whose phrasing was always impeccable (and still is), but whose instrument has only improved with time~ Greg Victor, Music, 9/20/11
This [is a] funky blast from a long time favorite...[Maria Muldaurs] Steady Love [is] a chugging, down-home, Little Feat-ish excursion that's, well, too true for pop consumption.
I'll Be Glad, an irrepressible N'Awleans boogie woogie where her invigorating old blues mama busts out, finds a home, and puts up stakes for the betterment of us all. Bobby Charles' Why Are People Like That?" continues the thrilling, roller coaster funky romp. The sassy Soulful Dress ("Don't you girls be getting all jealous / When I round up all your fellas") is your old school blues mama throw-down. Greg Brown's taut and serpentine Blues Go Walking serves as a wild deception for the next three tracks as Maria goes gospel, and as she has triumphantly in the past, goes gospel like no one's business...with a groove that will make you grab a tambourine and exalt...Shane Theriot's guitar cuts Clapton's rich-man's blues to absolute shreds.
You'll find a lot of the above on Steady Love, as Crescent City masters like keyboardist David Torkanowsky, the previously acclaimed Theriot play on, off, and against the free shuffling granite groove of bassist Johnny Allen and drummer Kenny Blevins pushing and pushing an old pro into some of her best work to date!~ Mike Jurkovic, Folk & Music Exchange (FAME), 9/19/11
[Maria Muldaur] returned to her beloved New Orleans to record this mix of the sacred and the profane, seamlessly blending soul-stirring spiritual/gospel songs into her signature gumbo of electric blues and swamp funk.....On "Steady Love," she's never sounded more at home."~ Paul Liberatore, Marin Independent Journal, 9/2/11
One of the greatest albums of the year!~ John Shelton Ivany, JSI's Top21 Sydicated Column, 9/26/11
For STEADY LOVE she has returned to New Orleans to record a contemporary electric blues album that reflects the music she loves to perform live – New Orleans flavoured blues and R&B.
One of my all time favourite songs, by one of my all time favourite writers: of course it has to be 'Please Send Me Someone To Love' by Percy Mayfield. Not a song that just anyone can pull off but Muldaur has the chops and the front to take it on and do it justice, very nice indeed!
This is a sure fire winner all the way for Ms. Muldaur, fans of her earlier, more commercial releases are sure to enjoy this, as will lovers of her [more recent Blues] albums for Stony Plain.~ Waverly McTavish, Blues & Rhythm (UK), 9/26/11Maria Muldaur began her recording career almost fifty years ago...exploring not only blues, but bluegrass, ragtime, and jazz, which has served her well in everything she has recorded.... [O]ne of her favorite cities is New Orleans, with its brilliant musical heritage and ambience. That is where she chose to record her latest CD for Stony Plain, entitled "Steady Love." She's joined by an "A-list" of session men, too, including David Torkanowsky on keys, Shane Theriot on guitar, Johnny Allen on bass, and Kenny Blevins on drums, to name a few. She tackles not only traditional tunes, but cuts from Crescent City writers such as Bobby Charles and Percy Mayfield, all done up in Maria's swingin', bluesy style. [The stellar selection of tunes here]...find Maria's vocals playfully dancing around the second-line rhythms that embody these cuts, just begging you to get up and boogie. We had two favorites.... Maria gives a passionate read on Bobby Charles' stop-time story of the trials and tribulations of today's society, "Why Are People Like That?" And, her version of "Please Send Me Someone To Love" becomes a six-minute, slow-blues tour-de-force that pulls the listener in to every note, reaching down to the very essence of this song.
Maria Muldaur and her sweet, sultry voice literally helped to define the term "Americana," and she's a national treasure. She's recorded songs that have crossed many genres', and she appeals to fans of all ages. Get ready for a cool road trip down to N'awlins with "Steady Love!"~ Sheryl & Don Crow, Nashville Blues Society, 9/26/11
The sounds of New Orleans have always been in Maria Muldaur's blood and catalog. Dr. John appeared on her first solo album back in 1974 and she arguably hit a career high point on her first full-fledged love letter to the city, 1992's Louisiana Love Call. She returns to the Crescent City for this 2011 release, employing veteran New Orleans keyboardist Dave Torkanowsky as musical director and "facilitator" and returning to the swampy "Bluesiana music" sound that includes heavy doses of gospel and blues along with touches of jazz, soul, and funk. This is a major shift from her [recent quintet of acoustic blues &] jug band releases and plays to her sultry strengths as a vocalist who can convincingly sing any style of music she feels passionate about....STEADY LOVE finds the singer interpreting some signature songs from the history of New Orleans and other gems such as Sugar Pie DeSanto's frisky Chess nugget "Soulful Dress" and a slow, stunning version of Percy Mayfield's "Send Me Someone to Love". Muldaur's voice has grown huskier over the years, all the better to dig into the gospel tunes that ground this set...It's that indescribable vibe, perhaps aided by recording in New Orleans, that provides this album with its continuity and consistency. Add a batch of terrific tunes from somewhat unexpected sources (Austin's Stephen Bruton and two from Greg Brown) and a sympathetic mix from another area veteran in John Porter, and the result is a late-career stunner for an Americana singer who has never disappointed her fans despite, or perhaps because of, her diverse musical palette. That eclecticism works best within a context, though, which makes this return to New Orleans another high-water mark in Muldaur's impressive career.~ Hal Horowitz, All Music Guide, 9/26/11
Some people walk it, some people talk it, Muldaur does both here. A high octane, soul shaker throughout that'll have you hitting Amazon to download everything...She's the winner and still champion.~ Chris Spector, Midwest Record, 9/11/11
Muldaur's latest release.... "Steady Love" (Stony Plain Records). [was] recorded in New Orleans, with song selection ranging from gospel to blues to NO gumbo [is] a winner! The cute and sexy "Midnight at the Oasis" vocals have ripened nicely into a deeper, sultry voice and attitude that gives the music here lots of rich, emotional content....Maria swing[s] toughly in the lower registers with a whiskey-flavored voice. The band snaps and crackles here...laying down beautifully layered sound throughout.
Maria's vocal style lends itself extremely well to gospel/spiritual sounds and she brings several with her here, smack in the middle of all this glorious, devilish music. Yet, they're an integral part of all this music....
I love the way Ms. Muldaur sings. She knows how to treat a lyric, how to work the music, and never strays beyond her considerable stylistic strengths.
Listen to a classic American singer treat you to some great music.~ Jim White, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/28/11
With STEADY LOVE Maria Muldaur continues [her] exploration of Americana, American Roots music or whatever other tag you wish to apply. The album is a wonderful collection of songs probably best described as Cajun Blues, Swamp Funk or as she describes it, "Bluesiana" music. Fittingly, she recorded this gritty, lowdown celebration with some of New Orleans best players, raiding the Neville Brother band , amongst others and putting them in the capable hands of keyboardist Dave Torkanowsky, sometimes referred to as the best piano player in NOLA.
[A]s is her signature, Maria Muldaur chose songs from some of the greatest composers that display that Swampy funk and touch her soul. There is Elvin Bishop's, "I'll Be Glad", Percy Mayfield's "Please, Send Me Someone To Love", Bobby Charles, "Why Are People Like That?" the gospel tinged "As An Eagle Stirreth In Her Nest".
The voice is not that high sweet voice that reportedly caused a population explosion. "'Midnight At The Oasis' was probably responsible for the conception of more children than any other song of the 1970's" as one critic put it. This voice has grits for breakfast. This voice is marinated in experience, this voice wants to romp around on a dance floor strewn with sawdust and peanut shells. It is still a voice that celebrates good times, good music and the heart of American music.~ Robert Carraher, The Dirty Lowdown, 10/5/11
Perhaps nothing points up the timeless quality of this music as well as her performance of "Please Send Me Someone to Love." Muldaur makes Percy Mayfield's classic 1950's ballad sound like a wrenching lament for the world we're living in right now."~ Nick Critiano, Boulder Daily Camera, 10/7/2011
Reviews excerpts for Maria Muldaur & Her Garden Of Joy:
Reviews excerpts for Yes We Can!:
In the sixties, Maria Muldaur was singing in the Village with the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. Last year, she released "Heart of Mine," an album of love songs by her fellow-folkie Bob Dylan. "Naughty, Bawdy & Blue," her latest release, completes a trilogy of records covering the songs of female blues pioneers. Her voice has roughened just enough to be the perfect instrument for these tunes. And she's not likely to skip "Midnight at the Oasis."
--"Goings On About Town" - The New Yorker Magazine
Maria Muldaur spices her music with passion and a voice that's scintillating, brazen, and lightly burnished. Whether dipping into the songbook of Peggy Lee or wading into the Louisiana bayou, she completely envelops herself in her chosen style.
Gospel, jazz, blues, folk, and country music all mingled in the air Muldaur breathed in Greenwich Village during the 1960s. She headed south and bunked with Doc Watson and his family to learn to play fiddle. Muldaur sat cross-legged at the feet of the Rev. Gary Davis, and Victoria Spivey was her personal vocal tutor. Stints in the Even Dozen and Jim Kweskin jug bands led her to the old recordings of Memphis Minnie and a musical foundation that's still intact today. After all these years (and some 30 records), Muldaur peels back the layers of time for Naughty Bawdy & Blue, the final installment in a trio of albums containing wonderfully accurate homages to female blues singers from the 1920s through the '40s. But unlike 2001's raw, acoustic Richland Woman Blues and 2005's Sweet Lovin' Ol' Soul, this album features bona fide ragtime and swing from James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band, whose pianist leader backed Sippie Wallace back in the day. On Wallace's "Separation Blues," the piano, reeds, and brass stride as if strolling through a park on a sunny New Orleans afternoon. It's a magnificent track that features Muldaur in sweet harmony with Bonnie Raitt.
For a tune that fits the album's "naughty, bawdy" title, try Bessie Smith's downtrodden "Empty Bed Blues," where Muldaur shamelessly delivers double entendres. ("He's a deep sea diver with a stroke that can't go wrong," she sings at one point.) Throughout the disc, Muldaur eloquently makes the point that these illustrious blues ladies were proud. Listen to the way she takes possession of Spivey's "One Hour Mama" - her voice, and the ease with which she captures the song's sentiment, renders the performance an exciting, significant tribute. By reaching back in time, Muldaur exposes her own roots. Naughty or not, these sassy blues gems are her forte.
--Tom Clarke, Blues Revue - June/July 2007
Saluting seminal women blues belters Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Alberta Hunter and Victoria Spivey, Muldaur finds a delicious groove where blues meets jazz, and the mood is playfully bawdy. Backed by James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band and joined by Bonnie Raitt for a duet on Sippie Wallace's "Separation Blues," Muldaur's affection for this sexually liberating music is contagious. Download: "Empty-Bed Blues."
--Nate Dow, Boston Herald - May 2007
Building on her Grammy-nominated collections of classic women's blues from the '20s through the '40s (Richland Woman Blues, 2001, and Sweet Lovin' Ol' Soul, 2005), jazz/blues chanteuse Maria Muldaur returns with Naughty, Bawdy & Blue. It's an apt title for a sassy group of songs originally recorded by Victoria Spivey (one of Muldaur's mentors), Alberta Hunter, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and other female urban blues stylists the singer describes as "liberated socially, financially, and most of all sexually from the confines and mores of the times." Backed by the perfect fit of James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band, who often performed with Sippie Wallace and whose sound seems to have time-traveled without alteration, Muldaur moves through a dozen vaudeville blues numbers with integrity and authenticity, and never resorts to campy riffs or faux black dialect. Her expressive soprano has taken on a depth and heft through the years, and she's smart to deliver such suggestive lines as "I love the way he whips my cream" (from "Handy Man") or "He's a deep-sea diver with a stroke that can't go wrong" (from Smith's "Empty Bed Blues") with a subtle wink, preferring to let an insinuating trumpet chase home the joke. The album finds its highlight with "Separation Blues," a duet with Bonnie Raitt, who introduced Wallace to new audiences on her tours of the '70s and '80s. Muldaur and Raitt--corduroy and burlap--harmonize with the ease that comes from decades of friendship, and from the joy of preserving and appreciating one of America's purest musical forms.
--Alanna Nash, Amazon.com
The third in an awesome trilogy of albums in tribute to the towering female blues singers of yore, Maria Muldaur's Naughty, Bawdy & Blue reinvigorates timeless tunes originally etched into immortality by the likes of Bessie Smith, Sippie Wallace, Victoria Spivey, Ethel Waters, Ma Rainey, Alberta Hunter, and others. In a bit of a different tack than she employed on Richland Woman Blues (2001) and Sweet Lovin' Ol' Soul (2005), Muldaur enlists the estimable James Dapogny-led Chicago Jazz Band to add a little Dixieland flair and some small-band jazz flourishes to the proceedings. The result is a trip back in time to the smoke-filled speakeasies of the '20s and '30s. Against a sonic backdrop rich in trombone, trumpet, sax, clarinet, tuba, banjo, guitar, piano, bass, and drums, the husky-voiced red-hot mama wails Sippie's "Separation Blues" (joined by Bonnie Raitt), moans a remorse-filled "Empty Bed Blues" as if channeling Bessie, coos her way naughtily through the lubricious, double-entendre classic "Handy Man," and swaggers seductively through a mess of lascivious suggestiveness in Spivey's steady-rolling "One-Hour Mama." No longer the waif-voiced temptress of "Midnight at the Oasis," Muldaur now belts out the blues with the gravitas that comes from having lived for a while. Great songs, great fun, and indisputably great interpretive singing.
David McGee, Barnes & Noble (order)
If anyone has earned the right to do a full album of early blues classics associated with originators like Bessie Smith, Victoria Spivey, Ma Rainey and others, it's Maria Muldaur. She started singing in the early '60s with the Even Dozen and Jim Kweskin Jug Bands, and then began working with husband Geoff Muldaur before hitting solo gold on "Midnight at the Oasis." Through every style and band switch, Ms. Muldaur always showed an unerring eye for great songs and musicians, never chasing success like so many other popular chanteuses. On Naughty Bawdy & Blue, she is backed by the highly impressive James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band, which means there are trumpets, trombones and clarinets galore to help make these old-timey treasures come alive once again. If that's not enough, the duet with Bonnie Raitt on Sippie Wallace's "Separation Blues" is one of the best things either artist has ever recorded-naughty, bawdy, blue or not.
--Bill Bentley, Studio City Sun - June/July 2007
To blues with sex and gusto - Maria Muldaur pays tribute to early female artists
In the photo on the cover of veteran folk-rock producer Joe Boyd's much-praised 1960s musical memoir White Bicycles, a young Maria d'Amato, the only female in a group of very serious young male folkies, stares off into the distance, uninterested in her immediate surroundings.
Her dark hair is bundled up beneath a head scarf, and her expression contains not a hint of the sexual playfulness that would become an enduring trademark for the seductively suggestive blues singer, a signature feature of the giant 1974 hit "Midnight At the Oasis."
You can see some of that earthiness elsewhere in the book, in a black-and-white photo shot in 1963 featuring d'Amato holding a fiddle, while Greenwich Village folk boomers Bob Neuwirth and Tex Isley strum guitars at her side. In a loose sweater, with one shoulder dropped and her hair falling in ringlets, she could pass for a vamp in the making, a younger, more innocent version of the seasoned sex queen Maria Muldaur embodies on the just-released CD Naughty, Bawdy & Blue. It's a collection of down-and-dirty blues and jazz classics made famous in the 1930s and '40s by the likes of Sippie Wallace, Victoria Spivey and Ma Rainey.
"It's my tribute to early female blues artists from the Ragtime and Dixieland era: sexually liberated women who used wit and humour when they sang about their experiences and the skills of their lovers," Muldaur said in a recent phone interview from her tour bus outside Peoria, Ill.
With a four-piece jazz band, Muldaur is performing tonight and tomorrow night at Hugh's Room.
"This is not folk music or country blues," she added, referring to her 2002 Grammy-nominated Richland Woman Blues. "These are the gals who mentored me through the records I used to listen to when I babysat for my neighbours. They got to play with the best bands in America in vaudeville theatres and uptown dance halls.
"They were not furtive women. They sang with gusto, and they enjoyed playing with sexual imagery, which was a lot more clever back then than it is now."
Naughty, Bawdy & Blue, she pointed out, is part of a trilogy that began with Richland Woman Blues and includes the follow-up, Sweet Lovin' Ol' Soul (Old Highway 61 Revisited). But in many ways it's a continuation of a theme that began with the salacious novelty ditties she used to sing in Boston and New York in the early 1960s with The Even Dozen Jug Band and the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. Those outfits included a stunning array of fledgling talent, including Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian, Blood Sweat & Tears' Steve Katz, as well as singer/guitarist Geoff Muldaur (her first husband) and Toronto-born guitar wizard Amos Garrett. Dylan used to hang around them, picking up ideas.
"Every time I bump into Dylan he starts nagging me about my fiddle," she said. "He used to watch me playing all that Appalachian and Carter Family stuff, but I put the fiddle away; I just didn't have time to keep it up."
As for "Midnight At The Oasis," the song that made her a household name and fastened her reputation as a cross-genre mistress of cunning innuendo, Muldaur has nothing but affection after all these years.
"I do it at every show. I've done 34 albums in 33 years since I recorded that song and believe me, I know it's the one I can never leave out of the set. People want to hear it. It stirs up X-rated memories for them. It gives them pleasure."
--Greg Quill, Toronto Star - May 2007
Loin-lovin' lyrics: Maria Muldaur sings the blues - literally - with song titles like One Hour Mama and Empty Bed Blues
Sweet biscuits! Got them nasty, naughty, copulatin' blues. For as long as the idiom has existed, there have been blues sung dirty, with lyrics ranging from sly double entendre to earthier metaphor to straight-up pornography. It's a harmless scandalous tradition, at its best blushingly hilarious.
Male singers have waxed wicked - who could forget prankster Bo Carter's Banana in Your Fruit Basket? - but the better entertainers to work blue were the vaudevillian ladies of the 1920s and 30s. Sequined dames Bessie Smith, Victoria Spivey, Sara Martin, Alberta Hunter, Mamie Smith and Ma Rainey were ribald yet classy, and backed by the top jazz musicians of the day.
In honour of those women, Maria Muldaur recorded Naughty, Bawdy & Blue, a collection of sassy ragtime and old-time jazz-blues, including Sippie Wallace's Separation Blues, a duet with Bonnie Raitt.
"I thought that these women deserved their own tribute album," explains Muldaur, speaking from a RV rattling down an Iowa highway. "They were the pop stars, selling millions of records when nobody had any money, with the Depression looming large in front of everybody."
Those who identify Muldaur with her breezy 1973 hit Midnight at the Oasis will recognize the singer no longer, her once lilting voice now growlingly mature and Mae West-like. In the 1960s, she was Maria d'Amato, the sweet-folkie darling of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. Now, she belts out dirty ditties, convincingly so.
"I don't think I would have understood it," Muldaur says with a laugh when asked if she could have sung something like One Hour Mama back then. "I was relatively innocent, believe it or not."
Know that the charming material of Naughty, Bawdy & Blue is tame compared with the more explicit erotica of Carter or Lucille Bogan, the Coolidge-era lesbian responsible for Woman Won't Need No Man and B.D. Woman's Blues, the "B.D." standing for "bull dyke."
On Shave 'em Dry, Bogan was at her most bodacious, boasting of "nipples on my titties big as the end of my thumb," before getting crude. The 2004 album The Best of Lucille Bogan boasts a parental advisory warning, as does the various-artist collection Raunchy Business: Hot Nuts & Lollypops. Oddly, the Yazoo-issued Please Warm My Weiner: Old Time Hokum Blues, even with Papa Charlie Jackson's endearing You Put it In, I'll Take it Out, carries no warning sticker. (Probably the lurid Crumb-illustrated album cover makes clear the content within.) "I really didn't want to go there," Muldaur says, referring to racier rural blues. "What I like about my album is that it's classy. These women were sexually liberated, and they sang about just how they liked to be pleased in bed. But they did it in an artistic, droll way."
Muldaur's new disc is the third in an acoustic blues series recorded for Edmonton's Stony Plain Records. Both Richland Woman Blues (2001) and Sweet Lovin' Ol' Soul (2005) earned Grammy nominations. Where those albums covered country blues, Naughty, Bawdy & Blue features Muldaur backed by pianist James Dapogny's seven-piece Chicago Jazz Band.
The album is no dry, scholarly project; Muldaur, beguiled as a teenager by a scratchy copy of Bessie Smith's Empty Bed Blues, was mentored early by Victoria Spivey and Sippie Wallace - vaudeville queens rediscovered during the sixties folk revival.
Included among the new disc's liner notes is a review of Mulduar's appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival. Written by Spivey in 1964, a passage praises the youngster's guitar playing, singing, fiddling and kazoo work. "This woman saw something in me when I was just a pup," Muldaur says. "She didn't want her type of music to fade away."
The music no longer thrives, but it shouldn't fade completely. In his landmark book The Land Where the Blues Began, Alan Lomax writes of the tune Tight Like That and the whole loin-loving genre, noting an "unconflicted and happy eroticism" ringing out. Muldaur hears it the same way. "I defy anyone to be depressed after hearing one or two songs."
--Globe and Mail, Brad Wheeler, May 2007
Maria Muldaur salutes mentors - New album features blues by artists who shaped her style
After 45 years of exploring nearly every corner of American roots music, Maria Muldaur has come full circle, returning to the blues - the blues singers - that pulled her into the music in the first place.
"I decided I wanted to pay tribute to the great classic blues queens who were such an enormous influence on me when I was getting started in my own career," said Muldaur of her soon-to-be-released album, "Naughty, Bawdy and Blue." "It took me 40 years to develop the voice I needed to convey those songs."
"Naughty, Bawdy and Blue" is the third in a trilogy of blues albums by Muldaur, which includes the Grammy-nominated "Sweet Ol' Lovin' Soul." On the new album, however, Muldaur hand-selected cuts by some of her favorite female singers - a handful of whom had a direct influence on her when she was starting her career in Greenwich Village during the "folk scare" of the early 1960s.
Muldaur was a young singer with the upstart Jim Kweskin Jug Band when blues legend Victoria Spivey took a shine to her.
"Victoria Spivey took me under her wing when I was starting out and gave me some pointers," Muldaur recalled during a recent phone interview from her home in Northern California. "She told me, 'It ain't enough to look good and sound good - you got to have stage presence.'
"She would sit for hours playing all of her old records looking for something for me to sing." (Muldaur sings a barrelhouse version of Spivey's "TB Blues" on "Naughty, Bawdy and Blue.")
Muldaur, who remains best known for her 1974 hit, "Midnight at the Oasis," gets some help on the new record from fellow blues archivist Bonnie Raitt, who teams up with her on Sippie Wallace's "Separation Blues." Wallace influenced both Muldaur's and Raitt's careers during the early 1970s.
Muldaur, who recorded the album with Dapogny's band at Ann Arbor's Solid Sound studios, said she was particularly struck by the elegance and grace of the singers she chose to cover, all of whom had at least one foot in the jazz world.
Which strikes a similar chord to Muldaur's own career, which has straddled different genres with ease.
--Will Stewart, Ann Arbor News - May 2007
"Muldaur emerges as a sublimely original interpreter of a dozen Dylan tunes on "Heart of Mine." With fewer fissures in her raspy contralto than Dylan has in his weatherworn tenor, she finds melodic contours in such numbers as "Buckets of Rain" and "Make You Feel My Love" that were never before so apparent. Melismas flow from Muldaur's lips like smooth whisky as she rhythmically reinvents some songs, swinging "Moonlight" and giving a reggae touch to "Lay, Lady Lay" (rendered as "Lay Baby Lay") and Cajun spice to "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere."
--San Francisco Chronicle
...dream project as long overdue....'if you sometimes forget that beneath his many masks, some of them so savagely bitter, there's also just a wonderfully tender balladeer in Dylan, this album will gently remind you. The playing is as lovely as the singing, most especially from guitarists Cranston Clements, Danny Caron and Amos Garrett.
--The Weekly Planet, ABC Radio National
"Every Now and Then It Happens" ...these songs have been given a new life on this disk... "Buckets of Rain" is the standout here.. the way she sings it is irresistible, languid, and lonesome. All the other tracks are simply magical. But what has really caught my ear is the instrumentals. Unbelievable assembly of great players give this whole CD a feel of authenticity. Another wonderful surprise is that Maria produced this CD in conjunction with Joel Jaffee. I could go on with the praise but suffice to say...if you are anywhere near a Dylan or Blues fan buy this CD. You won't be sorry." "Great" Maria in fine voice. Nicely swinging and excellent interpretations. She makes these songs her own. Just an outstanding album, like her other albums, this is music for lovers.
...This notion of combining Maria's smokey...sweet, husky, and downright sexy...pipes with Bob Dylan's poignant, poetic, heartfelt love songs was an inspired one...and it pays off grandly on this delightful little collection. With the able backing of a crack band, Maria puts a bluesy spin on Dylan tunes from different eras...some (a softly-sassy reading of "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," a sultry "Lay Lady Lay" [recast here as "Lay Baby Lay"], a soulful twist on the oft-covered "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go') perhaps a bit more familiar than others ("Golden Loom", "To Be Alone With You")...and makes them smolder, sizzle, lope, swing, and soar with masterful aplomb. When the celebratory "You Ain't Going Nowhere"...with Muldaur playing some tasty fiddle...ends you are surprised at how quickly 49 minutes have passed. Heart of Mine is a very worthy addition to the expansive body of Bob Dylan covers that have been recorded over the years.
--Michael K. Willis, Neverendingrainbow.blog.com
"Maria Full of Soul"
Maria Muldaur and Bob Dylan were contempories on the Greenwich Village coffeehouse circuit in the early '60s. Now living in Marin County, Muldaur emerges as a sublimely original interpreter of a dozen Dylan tunes on "Heart of Mine." With fewer fissures in her raspy contralto than Dylan has in his weatherworn tenor, she finds melodic contours in such numbers as "Buckets of Rain" and "Make You Feel My Love" that were never before so apparent. Melismas flow from Muldaur's lips like smooth whisky as she rhythmically reinvents some songs, swinging "Moonlight" and giving a reggae touch to "Lay Lady Lay" (rendered as "Lay Baby Lay") and Cajun spice to "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere." Others get a New Orleans twist, thanks to pianist David Torkanowsky, and guitars Cranston Clements, Danny Caron and Amos Garrett all contribute superb solos. "
--Lee Hildebrand, San Francisco Chronicle
...SO many artists have covered and payed tribute to his music that another album of Dylan covers might go unnoticed...,but Maria Muldaur has done something special here and done it well. A friend and fellow struggling musician from the early Greenwich Village coffeehouse circuit, Maria has put her own breezy and sensual spin on a dozen of Dylan's more romantic offerings and pretty much made them their own. Her voice brings a childlike quality as well as a whisky worn weariness to the countrified twang of "Buckets of Rain"...and the Cajun feel of "On A Night Like This" is like a stroll down Bourbon Street. But it is on the title track "Heart of Mine" and on the brilliant "Make You Feel My Love" that Ms. Muldaur brings it all home in what is an outstanding new CD and I gotta believe even old Bob's gotta think it sounds pretty good.
--Dann Cotter, UrbanBoomer.com
...The loose-limbed funkiness in the music, its pleasant seasoning of jazz...Muldaur's own relaxed but saucy, sometimes sassy, vocals all have a New Orleans underpinning...the tracks...sizzle with real emotional heat...Nothing is better than her absolutely beautiful cover of "Moonlight." One of Muldaur's best recordings... "To Make You Feel My Love"...her minimalist performance perfectly compliments the song, almost painful in its naked sentiment.
--Ben Windham, Tuscaloosa News
Maria Full of Soul Maria's album "Heart of Mine" will make a great gift to Bob Dylan fans everywhere. As a total package, Maria's voice lends incredible smoky quality to the material, rendering an intimacy that's rare in albums at all these days. Her rendition of "Lay Baby Lay" is wonderfully romantic and sexy. During "Moonlight," you'll feel transported to a dark bar in downtown Manhattan with comfy red leather booths---you'll want to grab for a cigarette and scotch even if you don't smoke or drink scotch...the music is beautiful---and it's undeniable that the album and Muldaur's voice are fantastic. Make sure you give it a listen.
--Julia B. Gordon, Imeem.com
1/2 Muldaur wraps her gorgeous voice around a dozen of Dylan's prettiest songs and, just like Dylan's often done, she's revitalizes many of them with new combinations of instruments and genre interpretation.
For The Love of Bob. Absolutely Sweet Maria. Music: Maria Does Dylan. Muldaur's new CD covers ballads of a thin man Count me among the critics who like and love many songs that Dylan has written, but have never warmed to the man's voice...Muldaur...focuses solely on the man's love songs... Bless Muldaur's sweet lovin' ol' soul for her ability too perceive and pinpoint the passion and the romantic longing in the music of a friend more noted for social commentary and criticism....Muldaur masterfully demonstrating the aching and longing of "Make You Feel My Love." Heart of Mine includes many moods and genres, including electric blues, R&B and even a Gypsy jazz number on which a bit of Billie Holiday can be heard in Muldaur's voice. The disc blends several styles smoothly...It shuffles, it swings, and all the while Muldaur sings. The final track, Cajun-tinged "You Ain't Going Nowhere," is my favorite. Maria picks up her fiddle and Suzy Thompson joins in on fiddle and accordion. The song's tones of unabashed happiness are so joyful that I'd really like to hear more of this.
--Matt Kramer, Pacific Sun Magazine
"The charming Heart of Mine puts her sensuous, dreamy voice and hard-won experience to work on 12 love songs by Bob Dylan. With help for some "A-list" musicians, Muldaur delivers the poetry of the lyrics without ignoring the beauty of the melodies in songs like the sublime "Make You Feel My Love," which features a gorgeous guitar solo by Cranston Clements. She covers the familiar-- "Lay, Lady, Lay" becomes "Lay, Baby, Lay," and except for alliteration, nothing is lost---and the obscure. Dylan's impressionistic lyrics on "Golden Loom" are boosted by the sparkling piano of David Torkanowsky, who plays throughout the record. Muldaur treats Dylan's words with reverence on "Moonlight" and "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," featuring lead guitar from Amos Garrett. Though Muldaur rearranges the order of a few lines in the emotionally rich "Wedding Song," only the most rabid purists will object, particularly in the light of the swirling, spooky violin and E-bow guitar accompaniment. The Cajun swing take on "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" features Muldaur and Suzy Thompson on joyous fiddle and accordion and Maxine Gerber on banjo...Listeners will be grateful for this lovely collection...
Maria Muldaur also has a new set out today, the charming "Heart of Mine-Love Songs of Bob Dylan" (Telarc, A-). M.M. wraps her languid, liquidy, sleepy-time-down-South pipes around Mr. D's most quaint, countrified testimonials - "Lay Lady Lay," "Make You Feel My Love," "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go," and "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight."...this is a set that you can enjoy and exploit in all kinds of emotional weather.
--Philadelphia Daily News
Interpreting the love songs of Bob Dylan, Maria has accomplished what no one else has even tried: She makes Dylan seem like a normal guy. Focusing on his more playful fare, Maria flirts on saucy ditties as old as "Bucket's of Rain" and as new as "Moonlight." ...her sly, winking sensuality often works wonders. ."
--Daniel Gewertz, BostonHearld.com
The incomparable Maria Muldaur has always traversed a wide expanse of American music--in 2003, she recorded A Woman Alone with the Blues, a tribute to jazz icon Peggy Lee--and so perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that she has now applied her interpretive gifts to the love songs of Bob Dylan. Choosing from among his classics ("I'll Be Your Baby Tonight") and lesser-known works ("Golden Loom"), Muldaur bravely recasts several songs in disparate grooves (reggae, Cajun, swing), and even allows keyboardist David Torkanowsky to sneak a few bars of the jazz standard "Ain't Misbehavin'" into the end of "Moonlight." As expected, Muldaur is most at home with lazy, country-blues treatments ("Buckets of Rain"). But she can also effectively pull off the intense drama of total sublimation, especially on "Wedding Song" and "Make You Feel My Love," which she renders so tenderly as to elicit a tear. The title track finds her trying to talk herself out of an unsuitable lover, yet one suspects she won't be able to outsmart her heart. On both "Lay Baby Lay" (the gender-switching version of "Lay Lady Lay") and "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go," she eschews Dylan's urgent and poignant sexuality for sensuality, making both songs a study in how the sexes approach the chemistry of love.
--Alanna Nash, Amazon
Maria Muldaur has been taken by Bob Dylan's music from the very start. They were on the coffeehouse circuit in New York in the early '60s, and she's had occasion to sing his praises from the stage and in Martin Scorsese's film No Direction Home. And while other artists from Joan Baez to Judy Collins have cut entire albums of Dylan's tunes, none of them feels quite like this one. Muldaur, a fine blues and jazz singer, has taken the songs from Dylan's romantic canon and has fashioned them in her own image without losing their original bite, wonder, and humor. Accompanied by her road band and a slew of guests that include Amos Garrett, Danny Caron, and Suzy Thompson, she has created a dreamy, languid, memorable song cycle. On first listen, it was a bit off-putting with all the license she took with the material, but on second and repeated listens, it settled in like an old friend on the couch telling stories. Beginning with a slippery, country-tinged bluesy "Buckets of Rain," and moving into a jazz groove on "Lay Lady Lay," (a weak tune by Dylan even if it was a hit) in which she changes the lyrics along gender lines and transforms the tune, perhaps offering a definitive version. The blues return on "To Be Alone with You," and she delivers a wrenching version of "Heart of Mine." The other stellar cuts here are the poignant "Wedding Song," the jaunty Caribbean-flavored "On a Night Like This," the sultry "Make You Feel My Love," and a funky jazz version of "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go," which sounds like it could have been produced by Allen Toussaint as does "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight." Recommended.
--Thom Jurek, ALL MUSIC GUIDE, JULY 2006
"Maria Muldaur on the other hand is a great singer and has a beautiful voice- a disparate instrument with both childlike charm and enough whisky weathered weariness to keep it Bluesy. For "Heart Of Mine: Maria Muldaur Sings The Love Songs Of Bob Dylan" she's created some of the best Dylan covers to date."
--BluesCritic.com, JULY 2006
***1/2 Bob Dylan is a great songwriter but let's face it...his voice is an acquired taste. He's a great singer but his voice lacks the beauty of some of his more tender songs. Maria Muldaur on the other hand is a great singer and has a beautiful voice- a disparate instrument with both childlike charm and enough whisky weathered weariness to keep it Bluesy. For "Heart Of Mine: Maria Muldaur Sings The Love Songs Of Bob Dylan" she's created some of the best Dylan covers to date.
The 12-song set pulls some popular titles ("Lay Lady Lay" re-titled "Lay Baby Lay", "On A Night Like This", "Make You Feel My Love") and some obscure album tracks ("Golden Loom", "Moonlight"), fitting them with Bluesy, Folksy and Jazzy backdrops that nearly turns them into new songs. Now some may call it blasphemy to take such liberties with a master's work but who really needs a Bob Dylan karaoke album? I do feel the Countrified twang she imbues on "Buckets Of Rain" was off-putting at first but methinks it was what Dylan was looking for when he wrote it. Next she sings a terrific version of a fairly lame song (Lay Baby Lay") and probably made it better than it was meant to be. The fairly straightforward Blues "To Be Alone With You" comes next and is not far removed from a Bonnie Raitt but this is followed by a pair of stunners.
Her take on "Heart Of Mine" is simply heart-wrenching with an absolutely flawless vocal full of vulnerability and ache. Props to Cranston Clements for his Spanish-flavored guitar solo. The somewhat sappy "Make You Feel My Love" always seemed out of place to me on Dylan's "Time Out Of Mind" LP like it was a song he's written for someone else but felt it was too good to not record. Billy Joel did a surprisingly strong version and both (alleged Country stars) Garth Brooks & Trisha Yearwood had big hits with the tune but Muldaur's restrained reading here is the definitive version to date. It's pretty but just bittersweet enough to prevent a maudlin rating. That's why this CD works- it's a Muldaur record with her own band and a slew of guests (Amos Garrett, Chris Haugen, Suzy Thompson, etc...) that was labored over and performed as thoughtfully as any set of originals.
It's hard these days to say with certainty who is and who isn't a New Orleans musician. Like the floodwaters raised by Hurricane Katrina, last summer's storm has spread the city's musical community all over the map. I suppose it will have to suffice to say that at one time, both of the mainstays of Maria Muldaur's new album -- the sultry singer and keyboard man David Torkanowsky -- had homes in New Orleans. So did Bob Dylan, whose love songs are the focus of Muldaur's "Heart of Mine" collection, to be released next month on Telarc. So it's no surprise that a classic Crescent City vibe hangs over the album like Spanish moss over Audubon Park. The loose-limbed funkiness in the music, its pleasant seasoning of jazz (courtesy of Torkanowsky, who is remembered for his legendary stint with The Astral Project) and Muldaur's own relaxed but saucy, sometimes sassy, vocals all have a New Orleans underpinning.
Back in the 1960s, Dylan's label, Columbia Records, mounted a campaign with a slogan "Nobody Sings Dylan Like Dylan." That's still true, for better or worse. But he has had a fair share of extraordinary interpreters that include figures as diverse as Richie Havens and Shawn Colvin to Manfred Mann to Shirley Caesar. You can add Muldaur to that select group. It seems strange that she has never recorded a Dylan album before -- after all they go way back, to the days in Greenwich Village when they were learning their crafts, tapping into a rich vein of songs by the likes of Hank Williams, Memphis Minnie, Big Joe Williams and Skip James.
It was Muldaur's reminiscences about those days in Martin Scorsese's critically acclaimed Dylan documentary, "No Direction Home," that finally convinced her label, Telarc, to approach her about an album of Dylan covers. One of the pieces from Dylan's "Love and Theft" album, the romantic "Moonlight," has been playing in Muldaur's head for months. She countered the Telarc brass with a proposal for an album of Dylan love songs. They liked that idea even better.
For the most part, it works. Muldaur keeps the program interesting by mixing familiar pieces like "Lay Lady Lay" (reworked as "Lay Baby Lay") with relative obscurities like "Golden Loom." And most of the tracks, like those on her recent tribute to Peggy Lee, sizzle with real emotional heat.
Nothing is better than her absolutely beautiful cover of "Moonlight." One of Muldaur's best recordings, it could sit comfortably on one of her classic albums like "Waitress in a Donut Shop." Danny Caron throws in some tasty, understated licks on lead guitar and Torkanowsky ends the piece with a quote from Fats Waller's "Ain't Misbehavin'." "To Make You Feel My Love" got its recorded premiere from Billy Joel but Muldaur takes a different approach. Her minimalist performance perfectly complements the song, almost painful in its naked sentiment. The subtle, laid-back reggae groove on "Lay Baby Lay" is another highlight, as is Muldaur's unforced sensuality.
Listen to Muldaur's bucking performance of "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," featuring Suzy Thompson's fine fiddling." It's a far cry from the New Orleans feel of much of the rest of the album. Even so, it's a kick to hear Muldaur sing, like a wild cowgirl on a night out:
Ooo-wee! Ride me high!
Tomorrow's the day that my man's comin' home!
Oh Lord! We gonna slide
Down in the easy chair!
'Cause baby, that's love, too.
--Ben Windham Editorial Editor, TUSCALOOSA NEWS Jul 30, 2006
Stony Plain. 12 tracks. 45.41 mins.
For those already familiar with Maria Muldaur's 2002 Grammy Award nominated "Richland Woman Blues" this represents safe and rewarding territory. The mission is: research obscure ancient acoustic blues tunes, (of which 5 on this CD were written by Memphis Minnie), assemble an array of hugely talented too-many-to-mention-them-all sympathetic musicians and play as close as possible to the original. Top all this off with Muldaur's authentic blues growl and a clear modern production: the result is just about as good as (mainly) acoustic blues can be. Del Ray's guitar picking is a constant delight, played in Minnie's style with apparently effortless aplomb. Her tunes are "I Am Sailin'", "Lookin' The World Over", "Crazy Cryin' Blues", "She put me outdoors and "I'm Goin' Back". Talented guests include Tracy Nelson, Taj Mahal and Alvin Youngblood-Hart, but above all its Muldaur's voice that enchants. The style and contents of the songs are inevitably somewhat uniformly thematic and occasionally rather too obvious in their double meanings, such as in "Empty Bed Blues" which is almost cartoon-like in its imagery. But overall, there is a unique attraction to soaking up these tunes of such simplicity and providence. It is very difficult to select the most satisfying of a quite wonderful catalogue of originals, but my favourite is a delightful rendition of "Decent Woman Blues". Maria Muldaur writes an interesting sleeve note in which she reveals in a post-script that her next similar project "Naughty, Bawdy & Blue" is already in the can. One can only imagine!
--Noggin, Blues Matters, Issue 28
Within one's lifetime, there will only be only a few rare vocalists who hit the peak of success, remain there for decades, and produce works that last eternally. Maria Muldaur is such an artist. Her work is not only eternal, but so are the classic forms she interprets, from folk to jug band, jazz to blues. Her Sweet Lovin' of Soul is the second in her series paying tribute to the women songwriters and singers of blues, this one featuring the work of Memphis Minnie.
Muldaur is an artist of epic proportions, her extensive knowledge of the idioms she performs allows her to move effortlessly between genres and create music that reaches excellence at every turn. Sweet Lovin' of Soul adds another title to her impressive catalogue of recordings, and follows on the heels of the first in her trilogy celebrating the women of blues. The first of the series, Richland Woman Blues garnered an armload of awards nominations, including the prestigious W.C. Handy Award (now the Blues Music Awards), a Grammy Award, and a win for Best Traditional Blues Album of the Year for the Indie Awards. Sweet Lovin' of Soul follows suit with both Grammy and Blues Award nominations, and will likely fill the artist's mantle with two more much deserved wins.
Muldaur has a voice that sends chills down the spine, emotional, passionate, sensual, and evocative, she can elicit a response from even the coldest of hearts. Her divine voice just gets better with age, developing a tweedy resonance that burnishes an already golden tone. Perfect pitch, excellent phrasing, and deep interpretive powers have made her one of the finest vocalists of her era.
A collection of mostly acoustic songs produced in a style close to the original art form, Sweet Lovin' of Soul features an esteemed group of colleagues bringing her vision to life. Surrounded by such luminaries as guitarist Del Ray, who teams with Steve James to recreate the dynamic two guitar sound of Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe, veteran bluesman Pinetop Perkins, the inimitable Taj Mahal, pianist Dave Matthews, and a host of others fill out these twelve superb tracks.
Memphis Minnie, Muldaur's inspiration for the album, was a blues pioneer native to Louisiana who later created a formidable force in Chicago. A guitar player of note, Memphis Minnie also wrote over 200 songs, and was a groundbreaker in the traditional blues idiom. Heavily influencing Muldaur in her youth, Maria pays homage to her heroine decades later with this release, covering four of her predecessor's songs among the tracks.
The title cut "Sweet Lovin' of Soul", takes Muldaur back to her roots. Teamed with fiddler Suzy Thompson, Taj Mahal on banjo and guitar, and the late Fritz Richmond on washtub bass, the song puts the stamp on the jug band sound as only these greats could. Bessie Smith's "Empty Bed Blues" was one of the Muldaur's first and greatest inspirations upon hearing it as a young girl, years later she makes it her own with her soulful, heartbreaking delivery. My personal favourite, Memphis Minnie's "Tricks Ain't Walkin'" tells the tale of the great depression, describing the darkness of poverty as even the streetwalkers weren't able to make a living during those hard times. Pinetop Perkins makes a stunning appearance on "Decent Woman Blues", sounding as young as his counterparts as he lays down his delightful accompaniment to Muldaur's rich vocal, belying his 91 years at the time of recording. Of the several vocal duets that appear on the album, "I'm Goin' Back" features Tracy Nelson recreating the Bessie Smith/Clara Smith original, and Alvin Youngblood Hart lends his voice to "She Put Me Outdoors", a tune that will put a smile on your face with it's superb lyric and tongue in cheek delivery.
Sweet Lovin' Soul is a recording that sees this songstress placing musical diamonds into a rough hewn sound. It ends all too soon, for one is still fully immersed in the imagery she's created long after the CD stops spinning. Muldaur deserves a truckload of awards for her work, and we all eagerly anticipate the next in her series celebrating the women of the blues.
--Cindy McLeod, jazzelements.com
"She's a woman, as Maria Muldaur joyously boasts on the title track of this compilation, and proud of it. But even though the singer turned professional due to her decade-long tenure in the folksy Even Dozen and Jim Kweskin jug bands before scoring with the sultry "Midnight at the Oasis" from her 1974 solo debut, the following 30 years of music show Muldaur to be a commanding talent in a dizzying variety of styles.
Not a songwriter, her ability to reinterpret lost classics is complemented by a knack for unearthing material perfectly suited to her sexy voice. Selections here range from Dolly Parton's "My Tennessee Mountain Home" to the languid jazz of Hoagy Carmichael's "Rockin' Chair"(with the writer making a rare cameo), from the big-band swing of the risqué, double-entendre-ridden "It Ain't the Meat (It's the Motion)" to obscurities from contemporary songwriters J.J. Cale ("Cajun Moon") and John Hiatt ("Feels Like Rain").
As comfortable with the acoustic approach of Memphis Minnie's suggestive "Me & My Chauffer Blues" and the rustic "Soul of a Man" (with Taj Mahal) as with the upbeat pop gospel of "Somebody Was Watching Over Me" (featuring backup from Bonnie Raitt, Ann Peebles, Tracy Nelson, and Mavis Staples), Muldaur possesses a voice that the chronological collection shows growing huskier and more mature over its three decades. It makes for a fascinating listen as we trail the singer on her dusty travelogue. Even with 19 tracks filling a bursting 80 minutes, there are no low points. Actually, it would take at least a double disc, or a boxed set, to adequately profile Muldaur's extensive career. In fact, the large gaps — there's nothing from 1976 to 1999 or after 2001 (which makes the album's title a bit misleading) — exclude much terrific, revelatory work.
Regardless, though I'm a Woman just hints at the singer's blues, folk, gospel, and jazz roots, it reminds just how talented, diverse, and underappreciated this American woman is."
--Hal Horowitz, Blues Revue
"Once upon a time, in a record business far, far away, musicians were free to dip into whatever genres they pleased without too much fear of commercial catastrophe. Those days, which now seem like a golden era of autonomy, are glowingly recalled on CLASSIC LIVE! (DIG), a collection of newly unearthed mid-'70s concert tapes by Maria Muldaur. Best known for her seductive 1973 chart-topper "Midnight At The Oasis," Muldaur was more that a one-sexy-hit wonder. The original jam-band hippie queen applied her lithe, sassy-waitress voice to everything from jug-bad music to jazz, gospel and blues. As this album proves, Muldaur was as convincing sweetly warbling Dolly Parton's "My Tennessee Mountain Home" as she was losing herself in the Billie Holiday-associated "Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be)." And thanks to supple backing by the likes of the legendary Earl Palmer, CLASSIC LIVE! is the friskiest musicology class you'll ever attend." A-
-By David Browne, "What's Rockin' Our World" special highlighted critic's choice, Entertainment Weekly, 11/28/03
"Although best known for her '70s pop hit " Midnight at the Oasis," Maria Muldaur is an accomplished vocalist who has covered various American roots music with equal success. This live set, taken from KSAN radio shows in 1973 and 1975, highlights the breath and scope of her voice, She flits with ease from jazz to blues (" If You Haven't Any Hay") to country (" My Tennessee Mountain Home"), taking in rock and pop along the way with "Midnight at the Oasis"and "Sweetheart(sic) in a Donut Shop." All in all this is an intimate performance in which she is backed by a stellar band, including guitar great Amos Garrett, and interestingly enough, this is her only live album."
-Relix Magazine, January 2004
"If you can imagine Peggy Lee covering Maria Muldaur's sultry hit "Midnight at the Oasis," then "A Woman Alone With the Blues," Muldaur's new tribute to the late singer, shouldn't seem too much of a conceptual stretch. And even if that's not the case, the songs alone may well win you over. "Lee's delightful repertoire, after all, brimmed with smart lyrics that have held up remarkably well over the years, many of which are seldom heard today. In fact, once Muldaur moves beyond the obvious -- the opening track is a rhythmically subtle update of "Fever" -- there's no shortage of clever material. Some of the tunes were the product of collaborations Lee undertook with Dave Barbour (including the lovestruck "I Don't Know About You") and Duke Ellington (the album's breezy and apt coda "I'm Gonna Go Fishin' "), while other treats bear the signatures of Harold Arlen and Leo Robin ("For Every Man There's a Woman"), Burton Lane and Frank Loesser ("Moments Like This"), and Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller ("Some Cats Know"). "Of course, it's easy to come off sounding too hip for your own good while celebrating Lee's legacy, which was stamped by a seemingly effortless gift for phrasing a lyric. But Muldaur manages to play things cool or hot without overreaching, even when briefly teaming up with guest vocalist Dan Hicks on "Winter Weather" or pouring yet another cup of "Black Coffee." She also has the good fortune to be accompanied by a cozy but versatile jazz ensemble, featuring pianist David Torkanowsky, guitarist Danny Caron and reedman Jim Rothermel, that often refreshes vintage pop moods with rhythmic twists and soulful asides."
-By Mike Joyce, Washington Post, Friday, September 5, 2003.
Maria Interview Prelude (for full text see jazzreview.com): The first ten years of Maria Muldaur's forty-year exploration of American popular music forms saw her rise from the girl fiddler in a Washington Square bluegrass band to a chart topping pop chanteuse with "Midnight At The Oasis." In the thirty years since, her chart profile has been somewhat lower, but her music has never been better, as evidenced by a series of nominations for Grammies, W.C. Handy awards and high critical acclaim. Along the way, she's examined the connections between jazz, gospel, blues, country, pop and just about anything else that's caught her ear, and she has, as they say, big ears.
Her new project, "A Woman Alone with the Blues," pays tribute to Peggy Lee, an artist with a similar tenure and stylistic range. In some ways it's a summation of Muldaur's own career, touching on blues, swing jazz and pop, but summation is really the wrong word, because as with every other Maria Muldaur album, it's really a promise of more wonderful music to come.
-By Shaun Dale , See full interview at jazzreview.com
"This collection of carefully chosen Peggy Lee covers shows [Maria Muldaur] in top form, singing in a knowing and polished way, while not forsaking her quirkiness and sense of humor. She does justice to Lee's classic "Fever," bringing her own sense of phrasing and subtle steaminess to it."
- The Seattle Times
"Over the years she [Maria] developed into one of the finest blues and jazz vocalists performing, and with her release, A Woman Alone with the Blues...Remembering Peggy Lee, she again reveals the vocal gifts that have made her an enduring and popular singer for over 30 years. If you like Maria Muldaur and Peggy Lee, this is the perfect CD collection for your listening pleasure. Flawless recording. Highly recommended."
"On this stunning CD, an early candidate for blues album of the year, Maria Muldaur proves how vital and timeless early blues and gospel music remains. It also shows how exciting an interpreter she can be in all-acoustic duo and trio settings, featuring a revolving cast of stellar collaborators. She's never sounded better.
With four songs from each, Muldaur pays special tribute to Bessie Smith and Memphis Minnie, two of the greatest female blues artists of the pre-World War II era. Every cut is a terrific performance, whether done faithfully with pianist Dave Mathews, or in funky vocal duets with Tracy Nelson and Alvin Youngblood Hart. Other highlights include Muldaur's sly, sexy version of Mississippi John Hurt's title song and her down-home take on Leadbelly's Grasshoppers In My Pillow. Three gospel numbers, including duets with Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal, are infused with passion and power." Rating five
- Mike Regenstreif, Montreal Online
"This Is Maria at the peak of her form ... She's put together a stellar collection of great blues and arrangements that showcase her unique, slinky marvel of a voice, Her duet with the late, great Charles Brown on 'Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to Vau!. John Hiatt's beautiful 'Feels Like Rain' and her reprise of her classic 'It Ain't the Afeat it's the Motion', are personal faves .. but really the whole record is terrific. This is the album to put on when you want to 'get close'."
-Bonnie Raitt"It would only belabor the obvious to note that no contemporary singer has absorbed more American root music influences than Maria Muldaur. From Jug-band through classic country, R & 8, Jazz, Gospel, glues and New Orleans funk, her musical odyssey has taken her to her present status as an eclectic favorite of the truly knowledgeable insiders. For me personally, she belongs in the true Pantheon - the elite company of our best purveyors of American song: the great Jazz singers; the Mildred Baileys, the Lee Wileys, the Peggy Lees."
-Jerry Wexler/Producer"How refeshing It is to hear a contemporary woman sing the blues as they're meant to be sung; deep,slow, and with love 'Meet Me Where They Play The Blues' will be a standard for many years to come. Oh, and the duet with Charles Brown that was more than special. I can't think of anyone that could have paired so well with the late great master as you have. Thank you, Maria, for doing what you do so well."
-Bob Vorel, Publisher/Editor in Chief, Blues Revue Magazine"Maria Muldaur's musical odyssey has taken her through many forms of American roots music. From her beginnings on the East Coast folk scene to her recent Black Top recordings that explored blues' Southern roots, Muldaur has brought vibrant sensuality and passion to each story she's sung. Now, she explores the relationship between her steamy vocals and elegant jazz arrangements.
What's immediately arresting on opener "Soothe Me" is the heartwarming Charles Brown-style piano of Dave Mathews and the flawless guitaring of Danny Caron. "I Want To Be Loved" sets the foundation for Muldaur's expressive voice to play hide-and-seek with her band of jazz masters. On "Gee, Baby, Ain't I Good to You," Charles Brown duets with Muldaur in his recorded appearance. Too ill to travel to the studio, Brown contributed his vocals from his nursing-home bed.
New Orleans humidity drips through Muldaur's sultry version of "Feels Like Rain." Big band swing backs her gritty cover of "It Ain't the Meat, It's the Motion." The title cut features a New Orleans mixture of piano, clarinet, trumpet and tuba. More Crescent City arrangements are found on the gospel-tinged "He Don't Have the Blues No More." Adding a trio of backing vocalists here and on "The Promised Land" allows her music to transcend mere jazz or blues lines. No one upturns a note sweeter than Muldaur; the subtleties captured in each syllable she delivers express volumes of personal wisdom. Here, with her finger at the controls as producer, Maria Muldaur shows why she's considered one of the consummate artists of our time."
-Art Tipaldi, Blues Revue"No singer today has mastered and loved as many roots music styles as Maria Muldaur. She puts 100% of herself into each new. project and gets better each time out as a singer and as a producer. She sets a standard, always taking the greatest care in her choice of material as well as her choice musicians. Some records are made with a higher purpose. When I hear 'Meet Afe Where They Play The Blues', I imagine Charles Brown, Johnny Adams and Blue Lu barker looking down on Maria with a big smile."
-Holger Peterson/President, Stony Plain Records" ... The sexiest damn collection of seduction ballads in a long time. This bedroom suite of songs makes you uncomfortable in the very best way... these songs practically loosen your tie and pull you down on the bed... The real heat is Muldaur's ever-ripening voice and the way it drips honey all over the ultra-tasteful satin-sheet arrangements."
-Robert Fontenot, Offbeat"'Meet Me Where They Play The Blues' is not just one of the best, if not the best by Maria Muldaur, but I think it is the best blues album released this year. In fact, it is the best album released this year, period!... There are many good singers and some great ones, Maria Muldaur is one of the greatest interpreters of American music ever."
-Bob Schwartz. Blues News"Here we have Muldaur at her best- taking her ballads and blues slow 'n easy, with an occasional taste of sassy, up-tempo R&B and funky slap-beat swampy blues... Muldaur at her sexy, sultry best..."
-Phillip Elwood, The San Francisco Examiner"Seductive, sultry vocals that evoke smoke filled after-hours clubs are the allure that Maria Muldaur brings to 'Meet Me Where They Play The Blues'. From the opening lines of "Soothe Me" with it's sweet-as-molasses delivery, to the gospel-tinged closing cut, "The Promised Land", she taunts, teases and titillates with her vocal stylings."
-John Koetzner, Blues Access"... She could very well be the sexiest blues singer out there. Her sultry and seductive vocals have only gotten better through the years."
-Bill Harriman, Hearing Aid ****1/2"... Muldaur runs the bluesy gamut, sometimes evoking Dakota Staton and elsewhere more like Alberta Hunter..."
-Jeff Bradley, The Denver Post"Any album that starts with a woman seductively singing, "Soothe me, baby, soothe me way down inside" is probably going to get my attention..."
-Ross Middlemiss, The Press, Christchurch ****"There's a slang term for a certain type of smooth Soul, R&B and Blues. To many it is affectionately known as "booty music," if you know what we mean, and we think you do! Maria Muldaur's newest, 'Meet Me Where They Play The Blues' is some sophisticated booty music... Muldaur is heir to the throne of Dinah Washington and every song on 'Meet Me' proves it.
-Cherry Hill, NJ Weekly"Miss Muldaur has proceeded with a definite if two-fold purpose: first, to rescue love's legitimately sensual elements from abuse at the hands of perpetually adolescent rock 'n' rollers: second, to restore those elements to their rightfully dignified place in the mature timbres of late-night jazz and blues. 'Meet Me Where They Play The Blues' demonstrates her voice to be the perfect instrument for this delicate operation. By singing sublimely about the earthy ("Soothe Me"), and earthily about the sublime ("The Promised Land"), she creates a metaphor for the union of body and soul that makes listening a pleasure."
Arsenio Orteza, World Magazine"I want to give sincere thanks to Maria Muldaur for putting together such a sophisticated, soul fulfilling project. 'It's a blessing to play great music, and Maria made that possible for all the musicians on this recording. This is certainly one of Maria Muldaur's best, and will be a soulful shot in the arm for jazz and blues fens everywhere. Beautifully done."
-Danny Caron/Charles Brown's Bandleader and guitar player"Sweet, slow and sultry. Blues dripping with a Louisiana beat. This is a lover's album. Open the wine, fluff the pillows - this one is meant to be shared."
-Bob Vorel, Publisher/Editor in Chief, Blues Revue Magazine"Meet Me Where They Play Me Blues' is more than a fine new album from Maria Muldaur. Her tender duet with Charles Brown on 'Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You', his last recording before his passing, gives this album a special place In the history of the blues."
-Paul Liberatore/Marin Independent Journal
Her new album, "Southland of the Heart", has a kind of controlled, sultry laziness that only comes from years of experience, the kind that can make a young man sweat and an old man smile.
-The RecordWhat Muldaur has done is mine the fertile soil of American Roots music for an album of true jewels. Maria turns up the heat hotter than any Spice Girl half her age while the band grooves and smolders behind her. These are deep blues for our times. These are songs that needed to be sung. These are songs that need to be heard.
-West Coast Blues NewsWith her new album, "Southland of the Heart," Muldaur has created an oasis of a different sort. An emotional oasis steeped in poetic lyrics and heartfelt songs that touch styles ranging from gospel and soul to jazz and earthy blues. If it is not her best album - and it could be - it is arguably the one with the most depth.
-Palatine Countryside"Southland of the Heart" (Telarc) is a smooth and sophisticated project, noteworthy not only for Muldaur's sensual voice but also for the classy blues she has mastered. Producer Dennis Walker has engineered a lush soundscape for Muldaur.
-SpectatorShe traverses the territory from jazz to bluegrass, from southern gospel churches to Smoky Mountain shanties, and she seems as comfy on Tin Pan Alley as in a south-side Chicago blues club-her sinuous honey-vinegar voice is her open-ended ticket. That (her) voice is one of the minor treasures of American popular music; anyone who stopped listening after her 70's hit "Midnight at the Oasis" has no idea of the range of textures Muldaur can achieve. She uses a convincing growl of offset sly sexuality, and balances reflective balladry with rawboned R & B. She can get you twitching in places you might have forgotten about.
-Critic's Choice"Midnight at the Oasis" remains a radio staple more than 20 years after she recorded it, but its goofy, lighthearted allure pales in comparison with the raw and throaty blues-drenched soul that Muldaur now sings with such seductive abandon. She has spent much of her career as a musical hobo, riding the rails from jazz to bluegrass, gospel to Appalachian folk, blues to Tin Pan Alley. At times, she excavates a hoarse growl that echoes Janis Joplin, but she never loses the sassy, teasing sexuality that has always served as her calling card. This sly, come hither wink distinguishes her from 90's rockers, as does the passion (born of experience) with which she attacks the lyrics; both qualities make even ancient song styles sound surprisingly fresh and vital.
"She (Muldaur) has a punchy now disc on Telarc titled "Fanning the Flames." She fanned flames in concert ... every aspect of her show was captivating, especially a version of Bob Dylan's unrecorded "Well, Well, Well."
-Boston Globe"Ms. Muldaur seldom gets enough ink or credit from the rock-crit establishment in recognition of her continuous personal growth as an interpreter of a wide range of native American musics...Her solo albums have always offered brilliant instrumentalists and thoughtful selections.. -but never more so than on her latest, 'Fanning the Flames.'"
-Village Voice"Muldaur's voice has deepened and thickened since she had a pair of TOP-20 singles in 1974-'75 and her understanding of roots music has deepened as well. When she sings blues. R & B or hillbilly she reinforces the beat with her vocal oomph and her throaty growls give her vocals a sassy edge that they never had before."
-Washington Post"Muldaur's musicological travels have led her to the central stations of Memphis and especially New Orleans, and her command of that city's heated blues, gospel, and rockabilly traditions (which Muldaur calls "bluesiana") oozes from her current repertoire. All these strains come together in her big honey-vinegar voice."
-Chicago Reader"Maria Muldaur is back with a terrific blues flavored album. "Fanning the Flames" will do just that. Maria has no problem returning to her roots music, blending raw blues with a gospel tinge."
-FMBQ"Muldaur's voice has grown roots over the years, roots that burrow deep into the blues, gospel, soul and spirit of the South. ..Her singing can transform the sappiest lyrics into something deep and abiding. In short, more that 20 years after her biggest hit, this hippie girl has become a soul mama.
-Blues Revue"If you like your music dripping with blues and soul, this one's for YOU."
-Stereo Review"Those who remember Maria for her '70s pop hit "Midnight at the Oasis" will I be surprised by the soulful intensity she delivers throughout this excellent offering ... The performances here are all real-deal."
-Jazz Times"Muldaur's voice has grown roots over the years, roots that burrow deep into the blues, gospel, soul and spirit of the South. Her singing can transform the sappiest lyrics into something deep and abiding. I short, more than 20 years after her biggest hit, this hippie girl has become a soul mama."
"Muldaur approaches her material with a jeweler's precision, cutting each tune scrupulously into a fine gem. She can sing circles around the young thrushes who dominate today's pop charts."
-San Francisco Chronicle
Maria Muldaur stands at the pleasure point where blues, gospel, soul and R & B all converge and delivers inspired sermons on the joys and tribulations of love. Muldaur's voice has matured into a rich, expressive instrument capable of evoking shades, textures and passion that most vocalists dream about but never achieve. A well done effort that will keep many awake until midnight.
-West Michigan Blues Society Newsletter
Sexy, energetic, witty, earthy, spicy, fiery.-Maria may very well be the best white soul singer performing on the club circuit.
-Jam Entertainment News, South Edition
Maria Muldaur projects a bluesy sensuality. Her sugarplum roundness and sweet, spicy voice laced with a down and dirty eroticism places her in the camp of the Empress of the Blues, Bessie Smith. Muldaur's dark, rich voice. She had a sassy sound that ran the emotional gamut from sensual and erotic to sweet and sexy. The crowd didn't need any urging to join in on the chorus.
-The Buffalo News
Muldaur is recording for the New Orleans label Black Top and providing her mastery of blues, jazz, ragtime and just about every other indigenous American music you can name. The lady blends the smoky sensuality of Billie Holiday, the upbeat spunk of Ella Fitzgerald and the low-down gutsiness of Alberta Hunter.
-The Willamette Week
Maria Muldaur is a genuinely visionary artist whose career has remained on the cutting edge of American music since her self-titled debut album went platinum nearly a quarter century ago. This lady has since managed to reinvent herself over and again, remaining fresh and unpredictable with each new album release. Her gripping passion and unwavering musical convictions have permeated each phase of her incredible history. She has unquestionably one of the strongest and sexiest voices in recent memory.
"'Louisiana Love Call' is a fervent exercise in Crescent City soul that reveals Muldaur's true nature as a blues and roots influenced singer.. The album is a logical outgrowth of Muldaur's love affair with the regions music, a thoughtfully assembled group of songs performed with subtle grace by a handpicked collection of her favorite local players (Dr. John, Aaron & Charles Neville and Zachary Richard) and her long time collaborator, guitarist Amos Garrett.... The best recording of her career!"
***1/2 stars - Rolling Stone
"The sultry singer returns to the sexy, bluesy confidence of her early '70's heyday. If Bonnie Raitt can be rediscovered, there's hope for Muldaur also... (she) has one of those sweet, spicy voices that drenches whatever she sings.. be it blues, jazz, folk, gospel or pop in soulful sensuality. She is in top form on the Louisiana Love Call album."
- People Magazine
"Put songstress Maria Muldaur into a New Orleans studio, give her a variety of fine Southern roots songs to sing, back her up with a who's who of Crescent City musicians, and you hit the jackpot. The spotlight is on her soulful, sassy vocals throughout as she effortlessly delivers country flavored Cajun tinged tunes, R&B cookers, tangy southern rockers and a show stopping ballad. Then there are two spirited duets with Dr. John and the rowdy New Orleans party song, 'Second Line' that Muldaur enthusiastically growls and warbles through. This could be Muldaur's best album..."
***stars - Downbeat
"Muldaur approaches her material with a jewlers precision, cutting each tune scrupulously into a fine gem, leaving plenty of room for solo work by members of her four-man band. Her perfectly quavery tones shimmer brilliantly above the bristling, blues rock sound of the group. Muldaur can sing circles around the young thrushes who dominate todays pop charts."
- San Francisco Chronicle
"Muldaur who has sung folk, jazz, blues, gospel, and pop, is cheerful and bouncy, outgoing and sexy."
- New York Times
"Muldaur coos and growls more eroticism into one inflection than Madonna can in an entire album. More than ever Muldaur conveys passions subtleties. Too may people still expect Muldaur to trot out her one big hit 'Midnight at the Oasis'. In a better world, 'Louisiana Love Call' would bury that presumption forever."
****stars - Bam Magazine
Finally, the reins are off the chops we always suspected were inside of Muldaur's range and technique. On this album she's alternately gutsy, soulful, smooth, sexy and sincere. What more could you ask?
-The Music Paper
Sister Rosetta Tharpe tribute, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Maria with Irma Thomas, Marcia Ball, Tracy Nelson and Angela Strehli.
With 10 stages going simultaneously, by definition any one person is going to miss 90 percent of Jazzfest's offerings. But of all that I saw in 2005, the single best, most moving vocal performance was without question Irma Thomas' during the Sister Rosetta Tharpe tribute in the Popeyes Blues Tent. The show was a can't-miss proposition: Turn loose Thomas, Marcia Ball, Maria Muldaur, Tracy Nelson and Angela Strehli on the legendary gospel singer's catalog. One by one, they all worked hard and all nailed their selections, backed by Ball's road-tested band, Thomas' horn players, keyboardist David Torkanowsky and Del Rey's electric slide guitar.
But then Thomas stepped up, set her eyes on the prize and absolutely took the tent apart with the slow-burn gospel testimonial "I Shall Be Free." Thomas' robust voice has only improved with age. She can sometimes coast on standards she's sung hundreds of times, but she reached down deep to pour all of herself into "I Shall Be Free." With Ball on piano, Torkanowsky on church organ, and her own steadfast resolve, Thomas ratcheted up the impact of each successive verse, fervent pleas to turn midnight into day, darkness into light. Her power and majesty were overwhelming.
By the song's conclusion, an emotional Thomas was in tears as the entire capacity crowd rose to its feet, showering her with a long, richly deserved standing ovation. Even the combined force of all five singers on the subsequent "Didn't It Rain" and "Down by the Riverside" couldn't match the intensity of Thomas alone. It was a Jazzfest moment to treasure.
-By Keith Spera, "Spera's Spin", The Times-Picayune, May 2, 2005
Teen Center - Los Alamos, New Mexico - April 17, 2002
Maria Muldaur & the Red Hot Bluesiana Band
There were few teens among the hundreds who heard Maria Muldaur and her band play the second gig of a seven-week tour. So many fans were packed into the small room that there was no room to dance. But everyone who showed up got a blues experience and a little education, too.
Half the audience only got tickets for the Monday-night benefit when the venue was moved after a smaller club sold out more than a week earlier. Muldaur has been a favorite in Los Alamos ever since she put on a free outdoor children's concert after her last appearance. But this show was strictly fir the grown-ups, a few of whom were overheard recalling romantic milestones achieved to her music.
But before they got to hear "Midnight at the Oasis," Muldaur took them on a blues and gospel journey with a few funky romps through Cajun swamps. Through two sets, she and her band covered the blues bases with songs written by heroes and friends: From Leadbelly's "Grasshoppers in My Pillow" from last year's Grammy-nominated Richland Woman Blues to Levon Helm's funky "Blues So Bad" from Meet Me Where They Play the Blues, she gave the audience a taste of the many styles she's mastered. High points included J.J. Cale's "Cajun Moon," the Cate Brothers' "Recovered Soul"," and Dr. John's "Got to be a Better World Somewhere."
Technical difficulties with the sound system took a little time to iron out, and when she was satisfied with mic levels, Muldaur realized she'd forgotten her set list. "I hope the show's not too slick for you people," she cracked before swinging into "I'm a Woman," a song she does better than almost anyone. Muldaur included several of Memphis Minnie's songs: She first recorded "Me and My Chauffeur Blues" on Pottery Pie with ex-husband Geoff Muldaur in 1970, while "I'm Goin' Back Home" is a duet with Alvin Youngblood Hart on Richland and with growl-voiced guitar player Mike Schermer onstage. Introducing "In My Girlish Days," Muldaur noted that she and the blues pioneer each had a penchant for marrying good guitar players.
Her most-recognized repertoire -- "Oasis," "Don't You Feel My Leg," and "It Ain't the Meat, It's the Motion" -- was saved for last. The final song was an a capella field holler, "It's a Blessing," that she'd learned from Mississippi Fred McDowell. She sang it beautifully and got a standing ovation. Muldaur's voice has deepened over the years, but she still has energy and attitude. The sassy chanteuse look she's remembered for is still present -- black curls with a flower at one ear, plenty of fringe and cleavage -- but now she's looking fo instruct us as well as to entertain.
Muldaur's excellent band -- Chris Burns on keyboards and bass, Bruce David on drums, and "Might Mike" Schermer on guitar -- grooved throughout, starting each set with a fewe band members featuring Schermer's fine blues vocals. Schermer graduated from Los Alamos High School a few decades ago. "It was a trip for me to come back and play in the same building where I played dances with a local rock 'n' roll band as a kid," he said. "I think that helps legitimize my career choice to a town full of geeks and geniuses."
-By Kay Roybal, Blues Revue