VOICES Notes and news on Jazz Vocals releases
17 JUL 08 ANNE FARNSWORTH
Most people remember Maria Muldaur for her slyly sexy "Midnight At The Oasis," the offbeat 1974 pop hit. But the saucy blues singer's sensibilities were formed by the political and artistic stew of early-'60s era Greenwich Village, where she was born and raised. That legacy of progressive politics married to folk/roots music comes alive in her latest Telarc release, Yes We Can! The Pro-Peace Project.
A collection of socially and politically aware anthems, it features writers Bob Dylan, Allan Toussaint, Marvin Gaye, Garth Brooks and Earl King. With the help of her backup band, The Free Radicals, Motown classics like "War" and Gaye's "Inner City Blues" groove at a slow burn while never losing the funk.
The material alone makes this album important, for we find ourselves mired in the same economic and political problems experienced during the Viet Nam era. But Muldaur goes one better by tapping women who are boldface names in the annals of political roots music. Joan Baez, Odetta, Bonnie Raitt and Phoebe Snow join her and each other on these songs. It's thrilling to hear their road-hardened yet still vibrant voices preaching the anti-war gospel again. Even Jane Fonda and Amma, the "hugging saint," are part of this remarkable assemblage. Muldaur also formed a choir, The Women's Voices for Peace, which fills the spaces with a joyful noise, lifting the material with an optimistic note.
The Crone archetype comes to mind as one listens to this music. Although commonly depicted as a post-menopausal hag, the crone is actually the wisewoman, the matriarch and leader who counsels society, warning when we are straying from the path. Determined and fearless, Muldaur and her associates are role models for younger women and guiding lights for us all.