Maria Muldaur in “Way Past Midnight” at The Grey Eagle, Nov. 4

From a press release:

Maria Muldaur in “Way Past Midnight” at The Grey Eagle, Nov. 4

WHO: Maria Muldaur, Grammy nominated singer, best known for chart topper “Midnight at the Oasis” in 1974, is a winner of several prestigious Blues Foundation awards. Maria’s voice and music embraces several genres of American Roots Music: Blues, Gospel, R&B, Jazz and Big Band, anything soulful, and her signature sound, “Bluesiana”.  Since she sang with Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band in Boston in the 1960s and made “Midnight at the Oasis” in the 1970s, Muldaur has made over 40 albums and has had multiple Grammy and Blues Foundation nominations. She is featured in the Margtin Scorsese 2005 two-part documentary, “No Direction Home” about Bob Dylan.

WHAT: “Way Past Midnight” – A multimedia retrospective of five decades of Maria Muldaur’s most requested hits, beginning with the Jug Band to the present, featuring Maria with some of the great musicians and singers of our times. Maria performs with her Bluesiana Band.

WHERE: The Grey Eagle, 185 Clingman Ave., Asheville NC 28801; phone: (828) 232-5800

WHEN: Tuesday, November 4, 8 PM

HOW MUCH: $15 in advance; $20 at the door. Tickets here.

HIGHLIGHTS OF MARIA’S CAREER AND BIO

This multimedia show at The Grey Eagle marks 40 years since Maria Muldaur had a monster, world-wide hit (#6 on the Billboard charts) with her career-making song  ”Midnight at the Oasis” and she’ll be singing that signature tune and many others from her 50 year career in “Way Past Midnight,” a multimedia retrospective show she has created to celebrate this milestone. Bring your dancing shoes!!

“In addition to being the queen of American roots music, Maria is one of the great storytellers of her musical generation, and she’ll be peppering her show with priceless anecdotes about her longtime friendships with Bob Dylan, Taj Mahal, John Sebastian, Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin and many of the greatest names in music. She’s also unearthed previously unseen videos as well as photos from the many stages of her career, including those indelibly sexy shots from Rolling Stone of her on a camel. This is a chance for all of her fans to hear their rarely performed old favorites.” (from a Paul Liberatore review)

Born and raised in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Muldaur was surrounded by bluegrass, old-timey, jazz, blues and gospel music, but her very first musical influences were from the records of country and western singers Hank Williams, Kitty Wells, Hank Snow and Ernest Tubb. At age five, she would sing Kitty Wells’ “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” while her aunt accompanied her on the piano. As a teenager, Maria tuned into early rhythm and blues and was an avid fan of Fats Domino, Little Richard, Clyde McPhatter and Ruth Brown. She became interested in the girl groups coming onto the scene and formed her own, The Cashmeres, while in high school.

In the Village, Maria soon became involved with The Friends of Old Timey Music, a group of that traveled to the rural South to find legendary artists like Doc Watson, Bukka White, Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt, then bring them north to present them in concert to urban audiences. Aspiring young musicians like John Sebastian, Bob Dylan, John Hammond, Jr. and Muldaur were both pursuing and creating a new wave in American roots music.

“We used to have after-hours jams on Saturday nights,” says Maria. “Blues legends like the Reverend Gary Davis would come over. I found myself sitting at the feet of not only him, but Mississippi John Hurt, Son House and blues diva Victoria Spivey.”

Deeply inspired by the pure mountain music of Doc Watson and the Watson Family, Maria left the intense New York scene and traveled to North Carolina to learn fiddle. During her extended visits with the Watson family, she soaked up Appalachian music and culture from the nightly gatherings on Doc’s back porch.

After returning to New York from one of her Southern excursions, Maria was approached by John Sebastian, David Grisman and several friends who had formed a jug band and were about to record for Spivey Records.  In preparation for the recording, Maria and her bandmates pored through hundreds of old blues and jug band 78s. Among these vintage gems were recordings by Memphis Minnie, Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith.

About Memphis Minnie, Muldaur has said, “From the first moment I heard her soulful music on an old scratchy 78 to now, Memphis Minnie and the example she set for me, has remained a profound influence on my life and music.” In 2012, Maria produced “First Came Memphis Minnie”, a loving tribute to the trailblazing singer who inspired many female Blues artists. With her on this album are Bonnie Raitt, Phoebe Snow, Ruthie Foster, Koko Taylor and more.

Maria migrated to Boston and joined the popular Jim Kweskin Jug Band in the mid 1960s. Her first recorded song with them was “I’m a Woman,” the anthem of feminine power and joyful sexuality that has been her theme song ever since. When the group disbanded in 1968, she and then husband Geoff Muldaur recorded two acclaimed albums, Pottery Pie and Sweet Potatoes with Reprise. Residing in Woodstock, New York, they became part of a new musical community that included Bob Dylan, The Band, Paul Butterfield, Janis Joplin’s Full Tilt Boogie Band and many other notable artists. These musicians had already made the transition from acoustic music to a more full-blown contemporary electric sound. The musical environment was fertile and led to many creative collaborations.

“During numerous all-night jam sessions, musicians like Paul Butterfield and Rick Danko encouraged me to express myself with the raw power and energy that would equal the intensity of their playing.”

Reprise’s Ostin offered Maria the opportunity to make her first solo album after she and Geoff split up. Maria Muldaur went platinum in two years and was forever enshrined in the minds of baby boomers the world over, with “Midnight at the Oasis”.

In 1992, Maria signed with Black Top Records and recorded “Louisiana Love Call” in her beloved New Orleans, at a time when American roots music began to experience a gigantic worldwide surge in popularity. The album featured guest appearances by Dr. John, Aaron and Charles Neville, accordionist Zachary Richard and guitar guru Amos Garrett. Instantly embraced by critics and fans alike, Louisiana Love Call was hailed as the best album of her career. The album was awarded “Best Adult Alternative Album of the Year” by the National Association of Independent Record Distributors. She also garnered a nomination for “Outstanding Blues Album” from the Bay Area Music Awards. The follow-up, Meet Me at Midnite, also won wide critical acclaim and was nominated for the WC Handy Blues Award. Maria held the distinction of being Black Top’s best-selling artist.

Her debut album on Telarc Blues, Fanning the Flames was recorded deep in the bayou country of Louisiana, steeped in the fervent blues traditions of the South. Longtime soul sisters Mavis Staples, Bonnie Raitt and Ann Peebles joined Maria on several tracks and eventually this album cracked the Billboard Blues Chart.

“Muldaur has got the blues… once you zero in on the emotional nuances of her finely weathered drawl, you’ll hear an inspired change of heart – her voice becomes an oasis for troubled souls.” (People magazine)

In 2006, Maria released “Heart of Mine: Maria Muldaur Sings Love Songs of Bob Dylan”. NPR’s Robert Christagau said Muldaur “put the passion in these tunes in a way most singers don’t match… With Muldaur, the difference isn’t just timing and worldly wisdom… here’s a woman who knows her own mind. Her voice has gained physical depth without losing its trademark compliancy.”

“Yes We Can!” was released in 2008. The album showcases the work of some of the most socially conscious songwriters of the past half-century: Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Allen Toussaint, Earl King and Garth Brooks, to name a few. Throughout the album’s thirteen tracks, a host of well known voices, collectively dubbed The Women’s Voices for Peace Choir, help Muldaur shed the light and sharpen the focus on the precarious state of the world and its future. Included on the high-profile guest list are Bonnie Raitt, Joan Baez, Jane Fonda, Odetta, Phoebe Snow, Holly Near and others.

In 2009 Maria received her 6th Grammy nomination and a nomination from the Blues Foundation for Best Traditional Blues Album of the Year, “Garden of Joy”, a return visit to her Jug Band roots.

Muldaur made “Steady Love” in 2011, with her own brand of New Orleans (which she calls her “musical and spiritual home”) flavored Blues, R & B, and ‘Swamp Funk’ and wowed Asheville for an  impromptu engagement at The Grey Eagle with her Bluesiana Band, with standing ovations and encores. Steady Love reached #1 on the Living Blues Chart, and garnered her another nomination for “Best Traditional Female Blues Artist” from the Blues Foundation.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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