Friday, May 19, 2006

Maria Muldaur... channelling the musics...



I first fell in love with Maria Muldaur on a trip to Dublin in the early seventies, a year or two before I decamped there for a longer spell of alcohol and music related madness that spanned five years. Camped out at Merve's place in Rathmines – he had a large selection of music that I think he'd brought back from the States – I remember his John Fahey records especially. And Maria Muldaur's first album. I knew of her glancingly because she had been married to the blues guitar player Geoff Muldaur, whose work I had some familiarity with and her big hit with 'Moonlight at the Oasis' gave some idea of her unusual vocal talents. But the album was a revelation, moving easily between folk, country, swing and more. Many years later I found it on cd and it's still one of my favourites. The first track: never was much of a fan of Linda Rondstadt at the time but her voice blends extremely well with Muldaur who is joined by the sublime Dolly Parton on one of her compositions – a song of rural freshness and bright-eyed wonder.

Fast forward into the nineties – Maria M in the company of the great blues and boogie pianist Jay McShann and a jumping band doing the old Bessie Smith number about the Mississippi flood in the twenties – looking out at the monsoon season playing out beyond my window, I'm feeling a great empathy with this track. Drought? Not up here in the East Midlands, mon canarde... McShann is an historic figure, born in Oklahoma but moving to Kansas City where he became a wheel in the flourishing music scene there – not sure if he is still alive - in whose early 1940's band a young Charlie Parker could be found in the sax section – and a flat-out rocking and rolling player. By the time this was recorded (when McShann was in his late eighties) her voice had deepened and roughened with the years and that unique girlish (yet sexy and sophisticated) lilt had dropped registers somewhat – but she was still a formidable interpreter. Not many can tackle Bessie Smith – the appalling George Melly made a rather sad career out of it, camping up the blues in a quintessentially stupid English music hall take on American music – I sometimes wish he'd stuck to art criticism – but Maria's voice is up to the mark.

From the boogie woogie/swing jazz blues to country blues – another fairly recent recording (backed by some fine picking by John Sebastian) of the Mississippi John Hurt song: 'Richland Woman Blues.' A song of anticipation... 'My turkey red bloomers got a rumble seat...' Really... Lucky man...


To round out this brief jaunt through the different facets of Muldaur's music and to further demonstrate the range of her channelling the myriad streams of American music– two tracks from the second album, written by Anna McGarrigle - 'Cool River' – which is perfect for her voice. A presaging of the gospel music to come in later years? Followed by: 'It ain't the meat it's the motion.' Big band swing. And a song which needs little interpretation, one assumes. Ribald...


Maria Muldaur (with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronsadt)

Tennessee Mountain Home

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Backwater Blues

(With Jay Mc Shann)

(Jay McShann ( piano); Maria Muldaur (vocals); Duke Robillard (acoustic, electric & steel guitar); Dave Babcock (alto & tenor saxophones); Doug James (tenor & baritone saxophones); Dennis Taylor (tenor saxophone); Bob Tidseley (trumpet); John Packer (upright bass); Marty Richard (drums).

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Richland Woman Blues

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Cool River

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It ain't the meat it's the motion

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9 comments:

Molly Bloom said...

This has cheered me up after a very distressing day. I can't wait to listen. Lovely...

Molly Bloom said...

Oh yes, her voice is different as she gets older isn't it? That Richland Woman Blues is very different to the song you put on last time. That husky edge adds something though. You can imagine all of the things that have happened to her in that edge. It's the edge that changes us isn't it? The edge that is constantly scuffed and nudged and pinched. It makes us what we are.

Molly Bloom said...

It ain't the meat...how different is that? This is great. What an amazing range she has. There's almost a bit of Garland there perhaps with a bit of Doris and Connie Francis too. But that's just me and my memories....

Molly Bloom said...

The Cool River is very beautiful...

Molly Bloom said...

Tennessee Mountain Home is a classic too. My new pic!

Molly Bloom said...

It's all wonderful...topped off with the Blues. Wonderful!

Ariadne said...

I've loved her voice since the late 60's, when she sang with the Jim Kweskin Jug Band (which her husband Geoff was also in). I'm still amazed that she never really caught on. Thanks for the reminder.

Molly Bloom said...

Happy, happy Sunday! The weekend draws to a close...

Private Beach said...

Jay McShann just died in Kansas City aged 90.