Maria Muldaur’s career spans decades starting with her work with Jim Kweskin Jug Band, with her husband on Geoff & Maria: Sweet Potatoes. Then solo. I have her early 70’s lps: Midnight At The Oasis, Waitress In A Donut Shop, Sweet Harmony & the later Heart of Mine (2006) of Bob Dylan love songs. Plus some of that jug band with Jim Kweskin: Relax Your Mind, Unblushing Business.
Like many my introduction was Midnight with its very jazzy tempo & evocative lyrics. The solo albums cover a range of styles & eras. Suggestive “Don’t Touch My Leg” to almost gospel “Sweet Harmony.” My favourite track is Waitress that is a perfect 40’s movie musical in under four minutes. She was one of several female singers at the time like Linda Ronstadt or Emmylou Harris or even Bette Midler – who were ‘groomed’ for major careers.
Each took very different routes though & Maria’s never hit the heights of Linda’s. Perhaps the ‘glamour’ didn’t appeal to her after her politically charge folky years. The earlier jug band work is, as one would expect, rootsy, Americana with a strong anti-capitalism undertone. It is great fun & covers ragtime, big band (without the big band) & traditional with hippy fervour. Kweskin is worth seeking out if you are unfamiliar.
I love the lilting, light quality of her voice which over time became less smooth but still emotive & sweet. Her later work becomes more bluesy & some of it is Christian based. According to wiki she’s still alive, torquing the folk circuit & heading back to the studio soon.
Finally Steelyard Blues (1973): Soundtrack with songs written by Nick Gravenites and Mike Bloomfield – some feature Maria Muldaur on vocals. They movie is a mediocre counterculture ‘comedy’ that isn’t as good as its soundtrack. Skip the movie get the soundtrack 🙂
the final section from this short story I wrote in 1977
We walk on silently, breathlessly, towards my place. She allows herself to feel, again, David’s desire to be there, to be there with her. We cross two empty streets, pass a ballgame, round a corner. Three houses down, I stop without warning. She stumbles against me, our faces touch.
Will the neighbours think we kissed?
“Home at last. Be it ever so humble.” Lazily unlocking the door I lead her in.
“Ooh this is nice. Very nice. It is so much bigger than your other place.” She is glad she accepted his dinner invitation. Here she can read signs in his plants, confessions in the paintings he hangs, thoughts from the books he is reading. “There is so much more you here.”
“You think so?” Safe. I am safe here. “I’m glad you like it. It took quite a bit of work to get it this far. I sanded the floors myself.” David is rapidly opening the lp he bought. “I wanted it to be more than a place you eat & sleep.” I need to hear Chopin. “I tried to express things without being too blunt.” The lp is now. I want its newness. Jean is new, here. “It is very good seeing you again.”
Jean sits on the long couch, watching him wipe the static off the new album. “You’re still so very careful with you records. I’m amazed.” She wonders if those hands will still be as careful with her.
“I look on these as an investment to be protected.” As they protect me. Piano fills the room. David sits beside her. “I wish I could take back some of those ugly things I’ve said.” I blurt, looking quickly away from her. “Do you really like what I’ve done with this place?”
She turns slowly, her eyes moving over plants, carpets, records. A planter, hanging in the window, casts irregular shadows across her face. She squeezes his hand, the pressure to convey he acceptance & understanding of his blurted apology. The shadows ripple like fingers over a keyboard. A fantasy in lust & dark.
“I’m jealous. My place is such a mess.”
David is watching shadows play around her lips, into the creases of her calculating eyes. Yes, there is more than a chance for us.
“What are you thinking about,” she asks, her hands wanting to push his hair back. her eyes wanting to search his body for further information, for a sign she can trust & follow.
“Food,” I laugh, getting up.”What would you like?”
“Oh, anything. Let’s see what you’ve got.” She laughs, following him into the kitchen.
The kitchen is so small we keep bumping into each other as we prepare a light summer supper. There is mayonnaise on her cheek, I reach out to wipe it off by stop.
“I …” David wants to explain there is no motive but knows that such an explanation is a step towards the motives I would be denying.
“Yes?” She looks away, wiping her cheek, glancing out the window at his tiny little backyard garden
David leaves the kitchen, leaves the image of her standing, holding a dishcloth to her face. A perfect moment. Safe. Complete. I turn the Chopin over, add his Waltzes to be played next, turn the stereo up & let the music thicken enough for two.
She comes into the room, softly asks. “How can you bear to living alone?”
“I can’t.” I turn so quickly David’s look of unalterable longing reaches her before I can control it.
I kiss her.
She pushed him away. “Please, don’t”
I kiss her again. Harder. She responds.
I stop suddenly.
“I’m sorry.” David steps back, Chopin throbbing in my temple. Is this fair to either of us?
“Don’t be. I was afraid romance had died. Apparently it has only lost some of its former grace.” She laughs, putting her arms around David, pulling him closer.
“Maybe it has merely been replaced by desperation.” I whisper. My hands fumble to open buttons, hooks, buckles & zippers. The carpet is coarse, yet soft under my skin. Her shoulders are brown, well-tanned, except for straps of white flesh. For an instant David recalls the tanned shoulders of a more urgent body but that instant passes into piano winds brushing our hair as we roll with & into one another.
Bound by a stunning rush of cadenza I, for the moment, escape the need for safety, the worry of fairness. Safety from that clear hunger I am tempted by but am unwilling to understand.