Friday, October 21, 2011


Proving that you either have it or you don't, and age doesn't matter, Maria Muldaur sounds absolutely smokin' her latest, album number 39 in a career that goes back to the early 60's Greenwich Village.  Only so many people can sing a line like "If you want my peaches/you better shake my tree", and make it sound sexy not silly.  Truth be told, Muldaur can sing just about any form of roots music, and make it work.  It fact, she has sung most of them.  In the past decade, perhaps the most truly fruitful of her career, she's tackled the great early women blues singers, gone back to visit her jug band beginnings, and done an album of socially-themed music.  Now, she's in New Orleans, the place she says she feels the most at home.

Can't argue with that.  This one grooves mightily, thanks to excellent playing straight through, and brilliant song choices.  You're not going to see the usual suspects here for tunes, this isn't a troll through the Mardi Gras songbook.  I recognized lots of the names, but few of the songs, and there are some gems.  The late Bobby Charles number, Why Are People Like That?, is a powerful example of the great lyrics that came out of the city, and Percy Mayfield's Please Send Me Someone To Love reminds us why he is such an underrated talent.  Not everything is an actual New Orleans song, but they are sure given the treatment, and I bet Elvin Bishop, Eric Bibb and Greg Brown never knew it was in them.

The biggest surprise is that there's just as much gospel here as gumbo.  Stephen Bruton's Walk By Faith, Rick Vito's I Am Not Alone, and the Rev. Brewster's As An Eagle Stirreth In Her Nest all sound as convincing as the rest of the music, and even though it a case of strange bedfellows having them sit next to a tawdry little number like Soulful Dress, Muldaur pulls it off.  Now, we've seen lots of recent discs where veteran performers, say a Mavis Staples or a Wanda Jackson, have a rootsy comeback thanks to a hotshot younger producer.  The genius behind this project is...producer Maria Muldaur.

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