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Monday, November 19 , 2018, 8:17 am | Fair 47º


Jeff Moehlis: A Bluesiana Dance Party with Maria Muldaur

The acclaimed singer will perform at the Ventura Beach Club on Friday night

Maria Muldaur will be in blues mode at the Ventura Beach Club on Friday night.
Maria Muldaur will be in blues mode at the Ventura Beach Club on Friday night. (Courtesy photo)

Maria Muldaur has had an amazing musical journey, from her early days as part of the 1960s jug band revival, to solo stardom in the 1970s with her sultry hit "Midnight at the Oasis," to membership in the Jerry Garcia Band and many guest appearances with other artists, to her ongoing explorations of the blues. On Friday night, she will be in blues mode at the Ventura Beach Club.

Tickets are available by clicking here. Also on the program is a set by bluesman Doug MacLeod.

Muldaur was full of energy — "I'm all caffeinated up!" — and insight when she talked to Noozhawk about the upcoming show. Click here for the full interview, which covers a lot more of her musical history.

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Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at the upcoming show?

Maria Muldaur: I have a band called Maria Muldaur and her Red Hot Bluesiana Band. "Bluesiana" [JM: rhymes with Louisiana] is a word I coined a bunch of years ago to describe the kind of New Orleans-flavored blues, R&B and what we call Swamp Funk that we like to perform. So I am coming to this particular venue with that show. We call it the Bluesiana Dance Party. You don't have to have to dance, but if you want to — and you probably will be moved to at various points in the evening — and if there's room to dance, then we encourage it.

I've made 40 albums in the 40 years since "Midnight at the Oasis" was riding at the top of the pop charts. It's now 41 years actually. So that's about an album a year, and I always am the most excited about presenting the newest material. Most artists are. But we've found over the years that there are certain favorites that people still want to hear, no matter how many new albums we had out or whatever. So I always include people's old favorites in my show. But this show will be a lot of stuff from my more recent albums, a couple of which I made down in New Orleans. It's very bluesy, swampy, funky.

I'm really excited about the band. First of all, my keyboard player — I call him my right- and left-hand man — for many years is Chris Burns. And then we have David Tucker on drums and vocals. And then I'm really excited to be reconnecting with one of my favorite guitar players in the whole world, a guy named Jon Woodhead, who lives down there in Southern California and is just a phenomenal player, just really gifted. He played with us a lot in the '90s, and then he moved away. We're just very excited that he's joining us for these Southern California gigs, and I think everyone should come out and hear us because it's going to be big fun.

JM: You're kind of in "blues mode" right now. What draws you to the blues?

MM: The same thing that draws a person to a really great home-cooked meal as opposed to running in and getting something at McDonald's or some fast-food joint. Of course you know all this, but the blues is a uniquely American musical form that is an expression of the human heart and soul, and all of the concerns of the human heart and soul.

But it does it in such a way that it isn't about victimhood — it's about transcending whatever the problem is and surviving. It just has a very pithy, no-nonsense, un-whitewashed way of presenting whatever the issue of the song is. They don't pussyfoot around the subject. They tell it like it is.

And as a consequence, even though it had its original heyday in the early 1920s, it continues to enjoy an ongoing resurgence and a proliferation of popularity. Here we are almost a hundred years after the blues were officially "invented" and there are more blues clubs, more blues artists, more blues bands, more blues recordings, more blues record companies,\ and more blues festivals than there ever were in the 1920s. That's because it's a very authentic form of expression.

It's also very healing.  \By the time the song is over, both the listener and the performer have experienced a healing of some sort.

Blues can address any issue — romance, finance, there's comical blues, there's very melancholy blues. But the thread through all of them is there's a transcendence that takes place in the expressing of the blues. It's not just a passing trend in music. And it informs a lot of our American music today. It's kind of a magical thing, and I'm never not interested in the blues. You know, I was in the Jim Kweskin Jug Band over 50 years ago, and we were listening to old 78s of all the original blues artists and so forth, and I consider that I know a lot about the early vintage blues, the artists and the people that originated this music, but I learn new things every day. It's just an ongoing discovery and delight to me.

JM: Do you get people coming up to you after shows and telling you their romance stories associated with "Midnight at the Oasis"?

MM: Oh my God! If I had been paying better attention and whipping out my notebook or a little recorder and recorded all of the stories that people told me over the years about what they were doing to that song, and what that song inspired, I could've published quite the little X-rated book by now. Some of the stories almost make me blush. And they listened to "Don't You Feel My Leg" and they're positive they conceived their children to those songs. What can I say? I just say, "Well, glad I could be of help."

I've been nominated for a Grammy six times, three in the last dozen years or so, and I haven't won yet, although I'm not giving up hope.

But I have to say that hearing these stories of how my music has intersected into people's lives and affected them, it is way more gratifying than any Grammy or any other award I could win. And not just the sexy stories, but stories about how a particular song got them through a difficult time, or an illness, or the loss of a loved one. I don't write any of these songs, but that's what makes me know I guess I have a knack or a gift for choosing good songs that are uplifting to people. And that's my main goal. It isn't the fame or the fortune, which comes and goes. My main goal is to keep making music that uplifts people.

Click here for the full interview with Maria Muldaur.

— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.

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