Maria Muldaur has had an epic music career, period. The New York-born, California-based singer has roots in American music as deep as any artist alive today, and her forty (40!) records traverse jazz, folk, cajun, blues, and pop music. Forty years after she hit the top of the charts with “Midnight at the Oasis,” Muldaur wisely realized it was a fitting time to pause and take stock of her many adventures. So, it was a very big treat to see her claiming, telling, and showing as much as singing the extensive breadth of her career in her multi-media retrospective, Way Past Midnight, at The Freight & Salvage.
Where do you start when you learned fiddle from Doc Watson, rubbed shoulders with Bob Dylan, recorded with Hoagy Carmichael, and worked with a general who’s-who of stellar musicians including Aaron Neville, Benny Carter, Bonnie Raitt and Dr. John?
Well, at the beginning.
After taking the Freight stage with her Red Hot Bluesiana Band, Muldaur launched into a story about discovering a pivotal Peggy Lee B-side as a rebellious teen that went on to become one of her signature tunes. Starting by singing the hell out of “I’m a Woman,” the song that placed her in the Greenwich Village scene at the height of the folk revival, Muldaur packed in as much music and music history as one could in a two-hour set … and still couldn’t get to more than a fraction of her work.
As a screen displayed photos from her archives, she dusted off her fiddle on “Honey Babe,” had the crowd sing with her on Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s “Work Song,” and romped through “Brickyard Blues,” all the while demonstrating her still-impressive vocal range. Hopefully, she’ll do a Way Past Midnight II soon, or, perhaps, pen a memoir about her richly storied life.
While she’s collaborated with so many greats, Muldaur’s own greatness was encapsulated by her solo, a cappella rendition of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “It’s A Blessing.” Heartfelt, world-wise and carried by Muldaur’s deeply soulful set of pipes, her singing sent chills through the audience. A blessing indeed.