Naughty, Bawdy & Blue | Stony Plain
Forget about the camel already — there’s so much more to Maria Muldaur than “Midnight at the Oasis.” In her 40-plus years of recording and performing, Muldaur has cut jazz, gospel, swing, and R&B albums, a tribute to Shirley Temple and one to Dylan. In recent years, she’s been returning to the emancipated pre-war female blues singers that served as an early inspiration: Naughty, Bawdy & Blue wraps a trilogy that began with 2001’s Richland Woman Blues and followed with 2005’s Sweet Lovin’ Ol’ Soul — both of them Grammy-nominated. But this time out, Muldaur goes uptown. Interpreting songs cut by such thorny, vulnerable, and yet cosmopolitan mamas as Ma Rainey, Victoria Spivey, and Bessie Smith, Muldaur’s age-ripened voice is appropriately abrasive but no less lusty than it was back under those palm trees. With period-perfect accompaniment on most of the set by James Dapogny’s retro Chicago Jazz Band, she’s licentious on Spivey’s ribald “Handy Man” and full of good advice on Smith’s “A Good Man Is Hard To Find.” Not all is hard-nosed and headstrong, though: Bonnie Raitt, in a duet on Sippie Wallace’s “Separation Blues,” helps draw out the mischievousness that can underlie these songs of hard men and harder times.