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Naughty Bawdy & Blue

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Album Review

Maria Muldaur's trilogy of old-timey blues and jazz releases for the Stony Plain imprint (she simultaneously records more contemporary music for the Telarc label) concludes with this appropriately titled set. Much is made in the liner notes of the veteran jazz/blues/pop/gospel singer being mentored in her early jugband years by no less of an icon than Victoria Spivey, so it seems Muldaur feels this tribute to the style and material of Spivey and other "classic blues queens" of the '20s and '30s is a sort of closure. It is also a history lesson, with detailed booklet information, some of it written by Muldaur, providing fascinating capsule biographies of the women whose music is covered here. Muldaur sure has the pipes and integrity for this approach, alternatively playful, sexy and downtrodden, and these dozen tracks find her inspired both by the strong, occasionally humorous material and the superb backing musicians in James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band. There is no attempt to modernize these classic vaudeville and Dixieland era tunes; rather the intent is to be true to the original style with acoustic backing played in, and with, the spirit that made them so popular in their day. Muldaur invigorates the incessant double entendres that surely caused lecherous grins when listeners heard Bessie Smith's "Empty Bed Blues" or Spivey's "One Hour Mama" for the first time. Bonnie Raitt swings by for a cameo on Sippie Wallace's "Separation Blues," graciously not stealing the spotlight, but using her presence to pay tribute to one of her own inspirations. Other blues women covered here are Mamie Smith, Ma Rainey and Alberta Hunter. Muldaur's versions aren't simply covers, they reinvigorate the material, keeping the focus on the lyrics while Dapogny's group swings along. It's a fun, frisky and enlightening ride from a vocalist who has always promoted this music mixed in with her other styles, and an album that leaves the listener anticipating a follow-up.

Biography

Born: 12 September 1943 in Greenwich Village, New York, NY

Genre: Blues

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Best known for her seductive '70s pop staple "Midnight at the Oasis," Maria Muldaur has since become an acclaimed interpreter of just about every stripe of American roots music: blues, early jazz, gospel, folk, country, R&B, and so on. While these influences were certainly present on her more pop-oriented '70s recordings (as befitting her Greenwich Village folkie past), Muldaur came into her own as a true roots music stylist during the '90s, when she developed a particular fascination with the...
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