Maria Muldaur returns to her jug band days
Reviewed November 2009
Maria Muldaur and Her Garden of Joy
By Maria Muldaur
Stony Plain: 2009
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
In the early '60s, Maria Muldaur (then D'Amato) was a singer/fiddle player in jug bands, including John Sebastian and Dave Grisman's Even Dozen Jug Band and the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. With the latter group, she recorded the superb "See Reverse Side for Title" in 1965 before marrying fellow band member Geoff Muldaur and going solo. She hit the pop music mother lode in the early '70s with several great albums and singles, and has continued to record regularly, recording every imaginable style of roots music. The latest, "Maria Muldaur and Her Garden of Joy," revisits the title of the last Kweskin band disc and returns her to a jug band sound.
Muldaur has surrounded herself with some former bandmates: Sebastian, Grisman and Fritz Richmond are aboard, and other heavies in the studio include Taj Mahal and Dan Hicks, who wrote two of the tunes (a listing showing who plays what on the tracks isn't provided).
Listeners who know Muldaur mainly from her radio heyday, with the lilting soprano of "Midnight at the Oasis," or even from her previous jug band favorites like "Richland Woman" are going to hear a lower, huskier alto singer now who still can convey plenty of sassy attitude. The opener Hicks original, "The Diplomat," features a vocal that sounds hoarse but fits the spry jazzy bounce of the song. The jug band's work on "Shake Hands And Tell Me Goodbye" is spot-on, and Muldaur shows her experience in the form, as she does on "Shout You Cats," which has a '30s ragtime flavor.
Some Dixieland horns help Muldaur deliver a saloon-rousing version of "The Ghost of The St. Louis Blues." Other highlights include "Sweet Lovin' Ol' Soul" and "Bank Failure Blues," as the spirit of the disc is clearly a "good-time music for hard times."
Throughout, the band gives great support on fiddle, washboard, harp, banjo, mandolin, and of course, jug. "Maria Muldaur and Her Garden of Joy" is interesting, different roots music. Jug band music has always had a touch of magic when done by musicians who play it well, as Muldaur and her cohorts do here.
Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.