Singing the blues

Maria Muldaur plays songs from her upcoming album First Came Memphis Minnie at the Queen
Maria Muldaur plays songs from her upcoming album First Came Memphis Minnie at the Queen's Wednesday (Oct.3).
— image credit: Alan Mercer Photo

Maria Muldaur has been delighting audiences with her blues music for almost four decades.

The Grammy nominee singer is performing in Nanaimo Wednesday (Oct. 3) at the Queens as part of her tour promoting her latest album First Came Memphis Minnie, which will be released Oct. 9. The album is a tribute to pioneering blues women.

On First Came Memphis Minnie, her 40th album, Muldaur collaborates with musicians such as Steve James, Bob Margolin, Del Rey,  Rory Block, Phoebe Snow, Bonnie Raitt and others. It includes several previously-released tracks from two of her Grammy-nominated albums.

Memphis Minnie, who the album was named after, was considered the reigning queen of mid-20th century blues and a pioneer of the electrified Chicago-blues-band sound. During her 40 year music career Memphis Minnie released more than 200 songs.

“At a time when women were ‘kept in their place’ both personally and professionally, Memphis Minnie was tough, independent, outspoken and played a mean guitar,” said Muldaur. “But, she was more than just a guitar hero of early country blues. She ably adapted to newer trends and modernized her style, which helped account for her years of popularity.”

Muldaur said Memphis Minnie took her under her wing when Muldaur was first starting out in her career.

“Despite racial, economic and gender barriers prevalent at the time she did what she wanted to,” said Muldaur.

It was her ’74 hit Midnight on the Oasis that received several Grammy nominations, which made Mudaur's name known across the globe. She has recorded 39 solo albums and throughout her music career has explored various forms of American root music including early blues bluegrass, Appalachian old timey, gospel, jazz and big band.

Muldaur says her musical evolution is a little like making gumbo. You add a few ingredients, let them simmer, then add a few more until the ingredients take on all the flavours.

“It’s all mixed in the musical gumbo somewhere,” said Muldaur about her music, adding she’s been blessed with a “long rambling odyssey” of a music career. “I can’t tell you how lucky we are in this country to have such a rich and varied history of musical culture.”

For her 2011 album, Steady Love, the artist returned to her home in New Orleans to create a contemporary electric blues album that reflects the type of music she likes to perform live. Muldaur calls this music “Bluesiana Music”, which is her own brand of New Orleans flavoured blues, R&B and swamp funk.

She’s currently nominated for a Koko Taylor Award, for Best Traditional Female Blues Artist, in the Blues Foundation Music Awards.

Maria Muldaur performs at the Queen’s, located at 34 Victoria Cr., Wednesday (Oct. 3). Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance at the Queen’s or $30 at the door.


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