Maria Muldaur | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Maria Muldaur

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MARIA MULDAUR

It's a long way from the desert chic of Midnight at the Oasis to the swampy southern roots rock of Maria Muldaur's new album, Fanning the Flames (Telarc). But I doubt that anyone (except maybe her accountant) really minds. Midnight remains a radio staple more than 20 years after she recorded it, but its goofy, lighthearted allure pales in comparison with the raw and throaty blues-drenched soul that Muldaur now sings with such seductive abandon. She has spent much of her career as a musical hobo, riding the rails from jazz to bluegrass, gospel to Appalachian folk, blues to Tin Pan Alley. In recent years, Muldaur's musicological travels have led her to the central stations of Memphis and especially New Orleans, and her command of that city's heated blues, gospel, and rockabilly traditions (which Muldaur calls "bluesiana") oozes from her current repertoire. All these strains come together in her big honey-vinegar voice. At times, she excavates a hoarse growl that echoes Janis Joplin, but she never loses the sassy, teasing sexuality that has always served as her calling card. This sly, come-hither wink distinguishes her from 90s rockers, as does the passion (born of experience) with which she attacks the lyrics; both qualities make even ancient song styles sound surprisingly fresh and vital. She will appear in Chicago with soul diva Mavis Staples, who takes a guest turn on Muldaur's new album (as do Bonnie Raitt, Johnny Adams, and Huey Lewis). Friday, 10 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118. Saturday, 10 PM, Buddy Guy's Legends, 754 N. Wabash; 427-0333 or 427-1190.

NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Maria Muldaur photo by James Crump-RSP/ Mavis Staples photo by Marc PoKempner.

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