Maria Muldaur! Remember? She sang "Midnight at the Oasis!" And before that she was in Jim Kweskin's Jug Band. She was oh so drop dead gorgeous. I still go to look at those old LP covers . . . where she never ages. On Saturday night at Hamilton hot spot, Pepper Jack Cafe, an older but still remarkably sexy Maria Muldaur appeared with a fiery trio to play the hits, and a broad selection of traditional blues to an almost sold out crowd. And a good time was had by all.
The show started with a brief set by local bluesman Harrison Kennedy. Once the lead singer for the Chairmen of the Board, who had a major hit with "Give Me Just A Little More Time," Kennedy has turned himself into a blues singer. He plays a 12-string, and a small bodied 6-string (on which he uses a bottleneck) and sits on a stool belting out his original tunes to the accompaniment of an accordionist. The combination of vocals, simple guitar and squeeze-box adds up to real earthy and authentic music. He has a couple of CDs which would be well worth searching out. They're available on his Web site.
We ordered our dinner as Kennedy was starting, and an hour later, after he had finished with an encore of his one big hit, we still hadn't received our food. If there is a weakness in the organization at Pepper Jack, it's this; the waitress seemed surprised that everybody wanted to eat at the same time. But when you have rush seating and the doors open at 5:30? Well, what do you think is going to happen? That said, the Red Hot Bluesiana Band was taking the stage as the waitress delivered our plates of cold food!
However, when Bluesiana started to play the whole place heated up! Electric piano, bass, drums and guitar . . . these three seasoned pros knew how to play! And after their solo tune they declared, "It's Star Time!" as Miss Maria Muldaur made her way in through the front door, winding through tables, up onto the stage to lead us through a history of Southern music.
She sang most of her two most recent albums. Both are tributes to female blues singers of the past, and especially to Memphis Minnie. She also paid tribute to New Orleans. The funk was thick and greasy, and Maria's once light (even thin) voice has matured into a fine husky blues growl just right for these raunchy tunes.
This woman has been performing for over thirty-five years, and has released 32 albums. "Midnight at the Oasis" was her biggest hit, but it is not really representative of what she does best. It's a bit of a jazzy novelty tune written by her one-time guitarist and added as an afterthought to her first album. Old folk songs, traditional blues, and a dose of early jug-band are her repertoire of choice, and always have been. She has dabbled in jazz-standards through the years too, even dedicating a recent album to the music of Peggy Lee. And when she is on stage, she gives you a little bit of everything.
No flash photos though! I warn you now! The flash distracts her from the task at hand, which is to entertain you as completely as possible. This 62 year old hot mama shaking a tambourine -- and her booty -- is a sight to behold. She's got it, and she knows what to do with it! Her band matches her note for note, feel for feel. Dave Tucker plays drums and sings some; Chris Burns is the leader, and plays a rollicking bass with his left hand, while he punctuates the tunes with a fine and active right hand. The guitarist (whose name might have been Kessell) was fabulous, playing Les Pauls and achieving a fine breadth of sound even in the acoustic songs.
After ninety minutes of blues from the bayou Maria & band took a break, she retreated to the trailer, changed her clothes and then came back for a second ninety minute set! At $30 a ticket this was REAL value! It was in the second set that she played the songs she calls "the Big Three," the songs everybody wants to hear. "Midnight at the Oasis," "Don't You Feel My Leg" and "It Ain't the Meat It's the Motion." And everybody was thrilled to hear them.
The sightlines were great. The sound was good, if a touch loud. The band was tight and Maria Muldaur was loose. The beer was cold and the company was fine. And Maria and Bluesiana are only in the second week of a six-week tour! Check all the local hangouts; this is definitely a show worth seeing.