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Honoring an American chanteuse

A Woman Alone With the Blues: Remembering Peggy Lee
A Woman Alone With the Blues: Remembering Peggy Lee
By Maria Muldaur

Telarc Records: 2003

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This review first appeared in the Spring 2003 issue of Turbula.

Maria Muldaur may forever be remembered for her early '70s hit, "Midnight at the Oasis." And she'll forever make a pretty penny in residuals from it, too.

Just don't make the mistake of thinking that's all she's done, or that she's just another oldies act living off her past.

Muldaur has continued recording through the years, continued moving around musically. If she started her public career with Jim Kweskin's Jug Band during the hippie heyday, she's since been all over the map – blues, country, jazz.

All of which serves her well in her latest venture, a tribute to the late Peggy Lee (who left us just over a year ago).

If there was ever an American chanteuse, it was Lee – who wrapped her smokey voice around every shade of American music, from Tin Pan Alley to straight-ahead jazz to the sort of after-hours blues that Billie Holiday favored.

And if Muldaur doesn't quite nail that sultry, seductress angle of Lee's style, she brings her own earthy aspect to her reading of Lee's songs. Her voice is thinner than Lee's, but is more nimble – rather than attempt a re-creation of Lee, Muldaur playes to her own strengths.

Muldaur is every bit as relaxed and in control as Lee was, and having the late Charles Brown's longtime guitarist Danny Caron sit in with the band only adds to the feeling of a late-night set at some downtown bistro to a small crowd of regulars.

The song selection is similarly solid. From the obvious choice of "Fever" to "Black Coffee," the hip "Some Cats Know" to the title track, you can't really complain about any of the songs here. Including "Always True to You in My Fashion" would have been nice – hey, there's always Muldaur's next album.