Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Maria Muldaur -- Maria Muldaur & her Garden of Joy

Maria Muldaur & her Garden of Joy
Stony Plain

Round about 1970, when I was still in high school and getting into music in a big way, I picked up Greatest Hits, a 2-LP set drawn from the 1960s recordings of Jim Kweskin & the Jug Band. That album hooked me on the Kweskin Band and sent me off in search of other revival-era jug bands and the Depression-era jug bands from Memphis and area that started it all.

Kweskin’s was a great band. Along with Kweskin, some of the other players included jug player extraordinaire Fritz Richmond, banjo legend Bill Keith, acoustic blues great Geoff Muldaur, and the ultra-sexy singer and fiddler Maria D’Amato, who at some point back in the day became Maria Muldaur when she married Geoff. I still listen to the Kweskin albums 40 years later.

In the 40 or so years since leaving the Kweskin Band, Maria did a couple of duo albums with Geoff and then a long list of solo albums that have moved through the realms of pop, jazz and blues. Finally, with Maria Muldaur & her Garden of Joy, she’s come back to a full set of jug band music -– and it’s a terrific, infectiously fun, set.

Many of these tunes date back to the 1930s heyday of jug band music (or even earlier). It truly does feel like being in a garden of joy listening to Maria and a sublime collection of jug-loving musicians romp through old tunes like “Shout You Cats,” and “The Panic is Gone.” One of my favourites is “The Ghost of the St. Louis Blues,” a kind of spooky, Dixieland parody of the W.C. Handy tune first recorded by Emmett Miller (but which, I confess, I first heard by Leon Redbone).

Along with the vintage material, there are a couple of newish Dan Hicks compositions and Hicks himself turns up to duet with Maria in a great medley of a couple of old novelty tunes.

There are lots of great musicians playing on the CD including John Sebastian and David Grisman who, along with Maria, were in the short-lived Even Dozen Jug Band in her pre-Kweskin days. Other players include Taj Mahal, Suzy Thompson and Jim Rothermel. One track, “Sweet Lovin’ Ol’ Soul,” is repeated from Maria’s 2005 album of the same name and features the late Fritz Richmond, Maria’s old Kweskin band mate, on jug.

Great stuff. More, please!

--Mike Regenstreif

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