THERE AREN'T many artists that have endured as long and with as much dignity and acclaim as Maria Muldaur. The legendary singer, who came up in the Greenwich Village folk scene in the 60s before landing a major label solo deal and recording her first album, shot to fame with early-70s hit “Midnight At The Oasis,” and followed with dozens of consistently solid albums and songs. Her incomparable voice also brought her the opportunity to collaborate with legends like Bonnie Raitt and the Grateful Dead, and garnered six Grammy nominations.
Her current tour brings her to the Tybee Post Theater on October 5, where she’ll be performing songs from her latest release. The album, a tribute to New Orleans Blues legend Blue Lu Barker, can actually be traced back to her 1973 self-titled debut.
“I found myself in the studio with all the greatest players. Anyone I asked for, they would get. Those were the days,” she tells Connect. “Dr. John was playing piano on quite a few of the cuts. As the process was going along, he thought of this song that he knew that was originally written and recorded in the early 40s by Blue Lu Barker. I think he heard my voice and sensibilities and thought it would be a good fit. It was wonderful and really fun, so we recorded it.”
Decades later, Muldaur – who ultimately became friendly with Barker and her equally legendary husband Danny Barker - found herself being invited to curate and perform at a tribute concert for Barker in New Orleans. Not only did she perform “Don’t You Feel My Leg,” the song she’d recorded for her debut, but she also dug deep into Barker’s catalog and discovered an abundance of incredible music to perform.
That experience led her to Don’t You Feel My Leg, the full-length album she’s touring behind that was recorded in New Orleans with some of the city’s most notable talent. It’s an upbeat and entertaining collection of songs that are, more often than not, humorous in nature.
“The players themselves, a lot of them weren’t familiar with some of the other songs and titles in her catalog. But they just loved it – it cracked them up. There are titles like ‘Loan Me Your Husband’ and ‘Bow-Legged Daddy.’ It’s very tongue-in-cheek and a very playful expression of sexuality,” Muldaur says.
The recording process for Don’t You Feel My Leg was largely spontaneous and live, with Muldaur letting the musicians “take whatever kind of solos they wanted.”
“You can just tell there’s a very live quality to the way they played on this record,” she says.
One of the most striking things about Blue Lu Barker’s music, and “Don’t You Feel My Leg” in particular, is how timely it is given the Me Too movement and a larger spotlight being placed on issues like sexual misconduct, gender inequality, and racial injustice.
“Someone pointed out that this was coming out at a great time with the Me Too Movement,” she says.
“I had to step back and think about how that fit in with everything. And the thing is, these blues people like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, they liberated themselves decades before anyone dreamed up the phrase ‘Women’s Liberation.’ They didn’t have a movement. Against social restrictions, sexual restrictions, and racial barriers, they lived the life they pleased and sang about it with great joy and gusto.”