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Music Review: Maria Muldaur – Maria Muldaur & Her Garden Of Joy

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The musical career of Maria Grazia Rosa Domenica D’Amato — more commonly known as Maria Muldaur — has come full circle. She started out as a member of a jug band and to jug band music she has now returned.

Maria Muldaur is best remembered for her huge 1974 hit, “Midnight At The Oasis,” but earlier on she was a member of two classic jug bands. The Even Dozen Jug Band and Jim Kweskin & The Jug Band both had a great deal of success during the 1960's.

Jug Band Music can be defined as a cross between folk and bluegrass. Its roots extend back into the early twentieth century as hundreds of groups combined guitars, violins and mandolins with washboards, spoons, kazoos, combs, and (of course) jugs. By the '60’s the sound was much more refined but the roots of the performances were still present.

For this release, she issued a call to some former jug band mates and John Sebastian and David Grisman responded. Also on board is Dan Hicks who is a walking jug band at least in spirit.

The highlight of the album comes in a pair of new songs written by Hicks. “The Diplomat” and “Let It Simmer” both feature the clever lyrics for which he is noted. Muldaur’s vocal on the first is far from her pop days as it has a twenties flapper feel while on “Let It Simmer” she gives a sultry bluesy presentation. Hicks shares vocal duties on the medley, “Life’s Two Short/When Elephants Roost In Bamboo Trees.” The interplay between him and Muldaur is indeed both clever and amusing.

Many of the tracks come from the Depression era. Songs such as “Bank Failure Blues” and “The Panic Is On” are resurrected for joyful performances. Another outstanding track is “The Ghost Of The St. Louis Blues,” which has a Dixieland feel and more tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

Garden Of Joy is a wonderful journey into the past, both for Muldaur and her fans. It is a zany album that will lift your spirits and make you smile, proving that, at times, you can go home.

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