Maria Muldaur – Steady Love (review)

Maria Muldaur – Steady Love (Stony Plain) review

It’s time to crown Maria Muldaur the queen of roots music.  You can’t name another artist who so effortlessly shifts from classic style to classic style – managing to own every one of them.  Last year, she ventured into jug band music; this year – she’s back to the blues with Steady Love.  How does the 70-year old Muldaur, who’s been flying under the radar for years, manage to release the best blues album of the year?

Because, unlike so many others, she gets it.

Since blues is one of the genres I cover in my reviews and interviews, I seem to get a lot of that type of music in the mail every month.  Yet, the majority of those albums miss the mark.  What they don’t understand is that blues shouldn’t be played with pristine precision, nor should it be recorded with lots of fancy digital equipment.  The best blues records were recorded quickly with little budget; the key ingredient being talented musicians that pull it all together.  Muldaur understands this, choosing to assemble a stellar lineup of New Orleans players, led by keyboardist Dave Torkanowsky, who’s worked on several of her past albums, and guitarist Shane Theriot, who lays down some blistering soloing.  Word has it that the entire session was done with very little money, so things needed to be completed quickly.  But, that may be the secret formula – nothing here is overwrought; it sounds like talented guys playing on instinct.

Muldaur has an incredible gift for picking great songs for her albums.  The opening track, “I’ll Be Glad,” is a recent Elvin Bishop composition, with slide guitar and an upbeat groove.  She also has a way of finding older songs that seem perfect for the current times.  Take for example, “Why Are People Like That,” written by Bobby Charles, which bemoans the mean-spirited, look-the-other-way mentality of today.

The slow-burning “Rain Down Tears” is another highlight, with her daughter Jenni Muldaur, providing the harmony vocals.  The title track, “Steady Love,” has a Memphis Hi Records feel, complete with accented horns and organ.  The best song of the whole record is “Soulful Dress,” originally a blues hit for Sugar Pie DeSanto back in the Sixties, but here Muldaur completely embodies the track with her own confidence: “don’t you girls be getting all jealous / if I round up all of your fellas.”  There are not many singers of any age that could pull this off any better.

Another element that sets this album apart is the overall mood, which is mostly positive and joyous – something almost unheard of in other blues records.  This isn’t “cry-in-your-beer music” – “Don’t Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down,” and “Walk By Faith” are two examples of uplifting tunes on the album.  She also finally lays down Percy Mayfield’s “Please Send Me Someone to Love,” a song that has been a staple of her live show for years.  The record closes with “I Am Not Alone,” featuring slide guitar work from Fleetwood Mac alumn Rick Vito that will give you chills.

Steady Love is full of gritty, raw blues played with an energy and excitement that only comes from people who have lived their life in this music.  Another spectacular release from Maria Muldaur.  –Tony Peters