Maria Muldaur

Maria Muldaur
Yes We Can

Telarc CD 83672

By Art Tipaldi
September 2008

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The voices singing Barack Obama’s official song, Allen Toussiant’s seminal “Yes We Can,” at rallies might sound oddly familiar. It’s the politically powerful voices of Maria Muldaur, Bonnie Raitt and Linda Tillery supported by the eight voices of the Women’s Voices For Peace Choir. The song was relevant when Toussiant penned it in 1970, and even more relevant today. Put together with the committed delivery of these soul sisters and it is clearly the anthem of this election.

Muldaur’s musical odyssey has taken her through the various forms of American roots music. From her jug band days to her late nights at the oasis, to New Orleans R&B to Memphis soul and torchy love songs, Muldaur always paints what her heart feels.

The ache in her voice on each of the 13 songs she’s selected to cover bonds listeners to action. Jean Shinoda Bolen and her book “Urgent Message From Mother Earth: Gather The Women, Save The World,” played a major part in Muldaur’s mission. That mission was to revisit the tunes from the turbulent 1960s and 70s that asked questions about where the world was heading. To Muldaur, and many others, those questions were never addressed.

Her choices of guest singers and musicians make this a complete unified vision. There’s the up-tempo testifyin’ with Odetta, Joan Baez, and Holly Near on Garth Brooks’ “We Shall Be Free.”

There’s Phoebe Snow and Muldaur shining a light on the horrors of war on “Pray For The USA.”

“Down By The Riverside,” led by David Torkanowsky’s churchy piano, enlists the emotional calls of Muldaur, Odetta, Near, Jane Fonda, Marianne Williamson, Anne Lamont, and Bolen.

When she takes on America’s unpopular war, she testifies with her daughter Jenni on the timeless paradoxes of Bob Dylan’s 1983 probe “License To Kill.” Muldaur takes Dylan’s “Master Of War,” originally written and recorded in 1963, and accents Dylan’s ever-relevant demands. Her slow and ponderous cover of Edwin Starr’s masterpiece “War” offers a quiet call-and-response designed to make each listener hear the important words.

The record ends with “Everyone In The World,” the words Indian mystic Mata Amritanandamayi spoke to 5,000 in India on the United Nations International Day of Peace in 2004. Muldaur took those words and turned it into a lullaby chant to remind us that no one in the world should live in fear, hunger or poverty.

I have many favorite Muldaur records, from her Louisiana Love Song and Meet Me At Midnight records; to her CDs, which honored her mentors such as Mississippi John Hurt and Memphis Minnie are among my favorites. With Yes We Can, Muldaur has recorded a compelling call to arms that has quickly become a record I will play to remind me what is possible when people sing together.

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