Photo: Maria Muldaur
In 1974, singer Maria Muldaur(born Maria Grazia Rosa Domenica D’Amato) became an international pop sensation with her hit song “Midnight At The Oasis.” Since then, she’s recorded nearly 40 albums, weaving between blues, folk, jazz and gospel. Her latest effort Steady Love falls into a category she calls “bluesiana.”
Muldaur has an encyclopedic knowledge of contemporary music. Her specialty is New Orleans rhythm-and-blues, inspired by working with legendary piano man Dr. John.
“I became addicted to that just wonderful, rolling, syncopated New Orleans piano style that he and Professor Longhair have done so well,” she explains. “And I’d come back off a tour with him and I just really missed that sound. So I made it a prerequisite that any piano player that played with me had to really bone up on that New Orleans piano sound. That’s about when I coined the phrase “bluesiana.” In the early-‘90s I went down there to record my first album there called Louisiana Love Call. It’s just a very appealing, infectious, soulful kind of music, and it’s just kind of where I live musically.”
Muldaur became an established folk and blues singer with the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. She released her debut album in 1973, and, the following year, got her first real taste of fame with “Midnight At The Oasis.”
“It did kind of take me by surprise but it was a very happy surprise,” she admits. “All it meant to me was I was nominated for Grammys, the album went gold, eventually platinum and all that. And it wasn’t just a hit in this country, but it was a big hit worldwide. For some bizarre reason that goofy little song just captured people’s imaginations all over the world, but I went right on doing what I was doing. I thought, ‘Ok, goody, now I can turn even more people on to the music I love.”
While she still performs her signature song on tour, Muldaur is always prepared with new material. It’s obvious her appreciation of the blues hasn’t diminished with time.
“New Orleans grooves and rhythms are full of lots of percolating syncopation. It’s just very deep, lively, greasy, swampy kind of rhythms going on,” Maldaur says. “Chicago blues are mostly shuffles, and Delta blues are usually acoustic sort of stuff that was the blues when the blues first emerged in the rural South before anyone plugged their guitars in.”
Steady Love was recorded in New Orleans and includes tunes by Louisiana natives Percy Mayfield and Bobby Charles, as well as Elvin Bishop, Greg Brown and Eric Bibb. Rick Vito’s “I Am Not Alone” is one of a handful of gospel songs featured on the album.
Muldaur and her Red Hot Bluesiana Band wind up their current tour in San Francisco with a Christmas concert on December 7.