Maria Muldaur

Maria Muldaur
Steady Love

Stoney Plain Music - B005BO2MBU

By Tony Del Rey
January 2012

Visit artist page

There’s a certain cachet attached to former folkie-turned-pop star-cum-jazz bon vivant- now-blues diva, Maria Muldaur. Regarded as one of the most promising young female performers of the early 1970’s, Muldaur has managed to keep her hand in the game all these years, churning out a steady stream of well-received, though mostly obscure, LP releases on various independent labels.

Settling at last into the role of archetypal blues singer, the eclectic artist seems to have found a home with Canadian blues and roots label, Stony Plain, surfacing here in 2011 with one of her finest efforts to date, Steady Love.

Not the staid collection of keening ballads and stardust melodies you might expect from an aging performer, Steady Love is a mixed marriage of country, gospel and soul-based blues covers culled from the back pages of some misplaced scrap book of great songs.

Muldaur and her band of New Orleans studio musicians jump-start the occasion with a trio of up-tempo numbers guaranteed to crowd a dance floor (shotgun wedding or catered affair). Elvin Bishop’s, “I’ll Be Glad,” Bobby Charles,’ “Why Are People Like That,” and Maurice McAllister’s, “Soulful Dress,” emphasize Muldaur’s youthful vigor, while giving credence to the fact that the lady can still sing with her soul on fire.

While not blessed with a voice as distinct as that of perhaps her closest contemporary, Bonnie Raitt, Muldaur’s chief talent is her ability to put a song over with earnest conviction. Nowhere is this more evident than on Steady Love’s standout track, “Rain Down Tears,” a smoky blues waltz written by renowned 1950’s A&R man, Henry Glover.

The no-frills rhythm section of bass, guitar and drum provides a stark backdrop for Muldaur’s double-tracked vocal to pour out the song’s heavy-hearted emotion – the disconsolation brought on by a lover’s unceremonious walkout:

“You say you’re leavin,’ ain’t comin’ back… Nothing I can say to make you unpack. ”

Muldaur relies on the natural husk and growl of a voice seasoned by time and age to put her soon-to-be ex-lover on notice with the refrain:

“It’s gonna rain down tears… Rain down tears… You’ll need a shelter somewhere.” With her imprimatur on material concerning matters of the heart having been sealed decades ago with songs like “Midnight at the Oasis” and “I’m a Woman,” it would appear that Muldaur has, over the course of time, developed a penchant for gospel music.

Of Steady Love’s 13 tracks, five are devoted to the genre - the best of these being Percy Mayfield’s, “Please Send Me Someone to Love.” While technically an R&B ballad in the mold of “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” its presentation is decidedly gospel-inflected, heavy B-3 church organ notwithstanding.

Muldaur doesn’t so much sing to an audience, but rather, testifies to her flock, extemporizing the fact that sin is mean by vamping on lines that describe the world as having gotten itself into one “ugly-funky-stinking-rotten-disgusting-revolting-whole-mess-of-trouble.” The only proper response to which, of course, is a resounding, “Amen!”

Listening to Steady Love might not result in the spiritual awakening that the world has been waiting for, but it is a testament to the fact that Maria Muldaur has been blessed with a long and fruitful career. I don’t expect it will be her swan song.

<- back to Features