Sunday, 05 August 2012
ELDER MUSIC: Maria Muldaur
This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
I first saw MARIA MULDAUR in Boston where I was working at the time in 1973, around the time she had released her marvelous first album. Later I realized that I’d heard her before on a Jim Kweskin album I had where she went by her birth name, Maria D'Amato.
It was there she met Geoff Muldaur and she eventually married him (and later divorced him).
Before that she was involved in the Even Dozen Jug Band that also included John Sebastian, David Grisman and Stefan Grossman. Not a bad line-up. I wish I’d been around to see them.
I haven’t mentioned to Norma, the Assistant Musicologist, that I’m doing this column. She’d want to choose her own songs so when she finds out there could be a second column on Maria. Come to think about it, that’s no bad thing.
Maria D'Amato was born in New York, in Greenwich Village in fact, so that gave her a head start in her chosen career. As I said earlier she started her musical career with the Even Dozen Jug Band and from there the Jim Kweskin Jug Band.
She also sang solo around the traps and played violin as well. After leaving those groups, her first solo album sold really well, as it deserved to do, as did a couple of singles from it. As well, a couple of singles from her second album made the charts.
After those, sales of her albums dropped off. although the quality of them didn’t, and she started concentrating more on jazz and blues. Enough waffle, let’s get to the music.
Maria’s debut album is on my short list of best first albums. (There’s a column there I think.) Not just best first albums either; it’d be in the running for best album ever. It’s a ripper.
It contained a big hit for her, which I hope paid some bills, called Midnight at the Oasis. I’m not including that one because there are other fine songs that may not be so well known. The first one I’ve chosen is The Work Song written by Kate McGarrigle.
Another song from that album is Any Old Time written by Jimmie Rodgers.
Maria’s second album wasn’t too bad either. It was called “Waitress in the Donut Shop” and it had several songs on it worthy of our attention.
It didn’t receive the accolades the first one did only because it followed that one, I think. Had it come out first, I’m sure it would be much more well known. Well, I’m going to do my little part in doing just that.
The first song from that album, Sweetheart, contains the reference to the album’s title.
As with the first album, I’m going to play another from this one. It’s Gringo en Mexico, a Wendy Waldman tune.
Moving on a bit, and a bit of a change of pace with an old blues song.
Richland Woman Blues is an old Mississippi John Hurt tune and it’s more suited to a female singer than a male, so it’s a good fit for Maria.
This is a fine reinterpretation; she really nails it. There’s an added bonus of some fine finger-picking guitar from John Sebastian.
This isn’t the first time Heart of Mine has appeared in these columns. Both the A.M. and I have used it before and here it is again.
It’s here because it’s such a wonderful song. This is the best cover of a Bob Dylan song ever; no one has done better than this with one of his songs. One of the finest tracks ever recorded.
Maria was set to record an album with CHARLES BROWN. That would have set the A.M.’s toes a’curling. However, Charles became too ill to participate and, alas, died not too long afterwards.
They did record one song together beforehand and it’s this one, Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You.
Maria recently made an album with JAY McSHANN and DUKE ROBILLARD. This is an album of jazz and blues songs, mostly ones that Jay had recorded previously.
Jay isn’t much in evidence on this particular track but Duke plays some fine guitar on it.
Another song from the first album and one that resonates with me, I Never Did Sing You a Love Song, written by David Nichtern who was also responsible for Midnight at the Oasis.
Going back to the start, to some jug band music. Okay, I’m stretching the truth a little - this isn’t the Jim Kweskin stuff because, really, it wasn’t very good. It’s not the Dirty Dozen either.
Recently Maria has recorded an album in that style called “Garden of Joy” with a few of her friends from that time – John Sebastian, Taj Mahal, Dan Hicks and some others. This is what I’ll be using.
Here she sings a medley with DAN HICKS, Life’s Too Short and When Elephants Roost in Bamboo Trees.