Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Geoff & Maria Muldaur [extended]

  • Pottery Pie [Reprise, 1970] B
  • Sweet Potatoes [Reprise, 1972] B+
  • Maria Muldaur [Reprise, 1973] B+
  • Waitress in a Donut Shop [Reprise, 1974] C+
  • Geoff Muldaur and Amos Garrett [Flying Fish, 1978] B
  • Gospel Nights [Takoma, 1981] B
  • On the Sunny Side [Music for Little People, 1990] *
  • Meet Me Where They Play the Blues [Telarc, 1999] *
  • Music for Lovers [Telarc, 2000] **
  • Richland Woman Blues [Stony Plain, 2001] A-
  • A Woman Alone With the Blues [Telarc, 2003] **
  • Classic Live! [Dig Music, 2003] **
  • 30 Years of Maria Muldaur: I'm a Woman [Shout! Factory, 2004] **
  • Heart of Mine: Love Songs of Bob Dylan [Telarc, 2006] A
  • Naughty, Bawdy & Blue [Stony Plain, 2007] *
  • Maria Muldaur & Her Garden of Joy [Stony Plain, 2009] ***
  • Don't You Feel My Leg: The Naughty Bawdy Blues of Blue Lu Barker [Last, 2018] A

See Also:

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Pottery Pie [Reprise, 1970]
On side one, the nice tunes from the predictable variety of traditional and contemporary sources are too unfocused to be more than pleasant, but the flip is a modest postfolkie treat. "Me and My Chauffeur Blues" shows off Maria's sexiest moods--coy, melancholy, swoony, demanding, and at the end she and her chauffeur come together--while "Death Letter Blues" shows off Geoff's most haunted blues voice. In between he camps up "Brazil," she strolls through "Georgia on My Mind," and Jim Kweskin asks Mel Lyman for further instructions. B

Sweet Potatoes [Reprise, 1972]
I really like this album, especially when Geoff gets nasty on "I'm Rich" and the sophomoric cheap shot "Kneein' Me," both of which he wrote. But Chuck Berry's "Havana Moon" gives away his limitations. "Havana Moon" simply isn't a very good song--it's only "interesting," as a pop aberration that has nothing to do with the thrust of Berry's music. Muldaur's version works quite well only because it singles out how "interesting" (and obscure) the song is. And too often "interesting" is all he wants to be. B+

Maria Muldaur: Maria Muldaur [Reprise, 1973]
Cut by cut, this bid to contemporize Maria's nouveau-jug music (two songs each from Wendy Waldman and David Nichtern, one each from Dr. John and Kate McGarrigle) is intelligent and attractive. But the overall effect is just slightly aimless and sterile. Maybe it's Muldaur's quavery voice, which only rarely has driven me to attention, or the low-risk flawlessness of the Lenny Waronker/Joe Boyd production. Or maybe it's just the curse of the jugheads--not knowing how to make good on your flirtations with nostalgia. B+

Maria Muldaur: Waitress in a Donut Shop [Reprise, 1974]
In which a new '50s nostalgia, beatnikism, is manipulated to exploit reasonable doubts and fears about sex-role redefinition. No woman hip (or even tasteful) enough to love Skip James has the right to pretend there's such a thing as an earth mother. And if the production last time was too safe, this is what it was guarding against--ecch-lectic cliches. C+

Geoff Muldaur and Amos Garrett: Geoff Muldaur and Amos Garrett [Flying Fish, 1978]
Because Garrett's amiable baritone and astringent guitar tend toward blues, this is more coherent Muldaur than either of his Warner solos. And I assume a limited budget curbed some of his sillier experimental fancies, which couldn't have hurt. But his fondness for genteel schlock--tunes by Chopin and Tchaikovsky, a rancid chestnut called "Beautiful Isle of Somewhere"--still grates. B

Maria Muldaur: Gospel Nights [Takoma, 1981]
In the end I'm not won over by the Rock and Roll for Christ, but I do want to note that Muldaur has never sang with more confidence. Maybe she was of two minds about that sexy w-o-m-a-n stuff. B

Maria Muldaur: On the Sunny Side [Music for Little People, 1990]
could be (even) cuter ("Would You Like to Swing on a Star," "The Circus Song," "Never Swat a Fly") *

Maria Muldaur: Meet Me Where They Play the Blues [Telarc, 1999]
Last of the red hot mamas ("Soothe Me," "It Ain't the Meat, It's the Motion"). *

Maria Muldaur: Music for Lovers [Telarc, 2000]
the old torch songs are the best ("Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You," "I Wanna Be Loved") **

Maria Muldaur: Richland Woman Blues [Stony Plain, 2001]
Too old to waste time bragging, too wise to want any more macho mess, Muldaur finds title, lead, and persona for this Memphis Minnie tribute in a well-loved classic by gentle John Hurt. It beats her '60s cover if not the original, as does the pliant, weathered "Me and My Chauffeur." Sticking to underexposed blues songs and aided by a lifetime's worth of friends--Amos Garrett taking Lead Belly to the Delta, Angela Strehli working a "cooperation plan," Alvin Youngblood Hart as Minnie's good old Kansas Joe--she turns in the best record of her undiminished lifetime. When was the last time anyone in Marin County wrote a line to match "Gon' bring you some money if I have to pawn my pants"? A-

Maria Muldaur: A Woman Alone With the Blues [Telarc, 2003]
Peggy Lee's bote sex becomes Maria's juke sex--drawled, growled, vamped, and moaned ("Fever," "I Don't Know Enough About You") **

Maria Muldaur: Classic Live! [Dig Music, 2003]
McGarrigle, Parton, Holiday, Dan Hicks--add some Gershwin-Porter-Arlen and she'd have herself the ideal modern cabaret repertoire ("Work Song," "Searchin'"). **

Maria Muldaur: 30 Years of Maria Muldaur: I'm a Woman [Shout! Factory, 2004]
Solo, she improved with age ("Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You," "Rockin' Chair"). **

Maria Muldaur: Heart of Mine: Love Songs of Bob Dylan [Telarc, 2006]
A pop connoisseur even as a kid in a jug band, Muldaur always brings savoir-faire to "folk" materials. But she's never sung with so much attention, delicacy and lyrical intelligence. She extracts meaning from songs a younger Dylan played as look-ma-June-spoon throwaways, lifts the title tune from well-earned obscurity, lays "Lay Lady Lay" across her big brass soul and rescues "Make You Feel My Love" from Billy Joel. And also from Bob Dylan. Even when the songwriter does this kind of material straight, he's not sexy--not like Rod Stewart or Al Green. But Muldaur, who's been known to slather the libido on too thick, is serious about getting into bed with him. A

Maria Muldaur: Naughty, Bawdy & Blue [Stony Plain, 2007]
Blue blues and educational double entendres, New Orleans-style ("One Hour Mama," "Down Home Blues"). *

Maria Muldaur & Her Garden of Joy: Maria Muldaur & Her Garden of Joy [Stony Plain, 2009]
"Good time music for hard times," jug re-revival division ("The Panic Is On," "He Calls That Religion"). ***

Maria Muldaur: Don't You Feel My Leg: The Naughty Bawdy Blues of Blue Lu Barker [Last, 2018]
Now 75, Muldaur became a dynamo in her fifties, an album a year between 1998 and 2011. Always a nuanced singer, she got subtler, sassier, and smarter; her pipes remained supple and the burr in her voice never went to seed. But her best albums were sharpened by a concept, particularly the wide-ranging Memphis Minnie tribute Richland Woman Blues and the mind-blowing .Heart of Mine: The Love Songs of Bob Dylan and its climactic "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere," which gets busier in that easy chair than was dreamt of in the Byrds' philosophy. This album flips the script by breaking out an obscure songbook rather than reimagining a famous one. Muldaur has been performing Blue Lu and Danny Barker's lubricious title song since it spiced up her solo debut in 1973, and in 2007 she assembled a whole album called Naughty, Bawdy & Blue. Here she lightens her timbre in tribute to her friend Lu on top of a hyperactive New Orleans band, and she's never sounded sexier or more committed. "Georgia Grind" jumps out at "Mama mama look at sis," after which "Loan Me Your Husband" follows hard upon "Leave My Man Alone." But it signifies that naughty and bawdy ain't all. "Now You're Down in the Alley" and "Here's a Little Girl from Jacksonville" could double as 50s dance novelties, "Nix on Those Lush Heads" means what it says, and if "Trombone Man Blues" evokes Dinah Washington at her filthiest, "A Little Bird" ends happily ever after. After all, Blue Lu and Danny were wed for 67 years. A