Maria Muldaur is now far removed from the pop music that made her a star during the mid-1970s. During the last decade she has released a number of well-produced and performed acoustic blues albums that have explored the legacy of some of the early blues pioneers.
Her newest album, Steady Love, will be released September 27. She has departed from a traditional blues approach by returning to New Orleans to record a contemporary electric blues album. She covers tunes by such composers as Eric Bibb, Elvin Bishop, Henry Glover, Bobby Charles, Percy Mayfield, and others.
She has surrounded herself with a stellar group of musicians. The star of the show is guitarist Shane Theriot, who is best known for his work with The Neville Brothers and The Syn with Alan White and Chris Squire. His solo albums tend to trend the line between jazz/rock fusion and a funk groove. Here he steps out and plays the blues and his virtuosity is a highlight of the album. Other primary musicians include keyboardist/musical director Dave Torkanowsky, bassist Johnny Allen, and drummers Kenny Blevins & Shannon Powell.
Her voice has changed over the years. It has acquired a nice patina as it has become a little lower but developed a new tone that now fits a blues style of singing.
The material was well chosen and fits together into a cohesive whole. The album flows from one song to the next with no weak tracks. “I’ll Be Glad” is electric boogie blues for want of a better description, fueled by some unique guitar tones. The Bobby Charles composition, “Why Are People Like That,” contains one of the album’s most powerful vocals. “Please Send Someone To Love” is a long sprawling track at over six minutes. Her vocal reminds me of the old blues/jazz singer Bessie Smith, which is a compliment of the highest order.
Right in the middle of the album’s thirteen tracks are three spiritual/gospel tunes. They were a good addition as the history of gospel music travels through the blues. The highlight is the traditional “I Done Made It Up In My Mind,” which has a shuffle beat. Her vocal on “As An Eagle Stirreth The Nest” moves in a soulful direction.
Maria Muldaur’s career has taken a number of twists and turns during the last half century, but she seems to have found her comfort zone in the blues. There is a line in “Get You Next To Me” that goes, “If you want my peaches, come and shake my tree.” Steady Love is a tree worth shaking.