Maria Muldaur

A Woman Alone with the Blues

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The always eclectic Maria Muldaur, whose previous albums have paid tribute to Shirley Temple and blues women of the '20s, takes another musical detour in this collection of songs associated with Peggy Lee. In addition to her cool, sexy, relaxed voice, Lee was arguably more talented than other vocalists from her era. As a songwriter she co-penned some of her own material, including the swinging "I'm Gonna Go Fishin'" with Duke Ellington, which features the witty double entendres that spice several other songs. Muldaur possesses a similar ability to purr ("Some Cats Know") or sizzle (an opening tour de force of "Fever" and "Black Coffee") without breaking a sweat. So this collection of 12 tracks, backed by a talented yet restrained eight-piece band, is a natural extension of her vocal strengths. The stylish, retro arrangements include vibes and big-band-styled horn charts that sound as authentic as if they were recorded in the '30s. Even though there are some finger-popping swing numbers (a zippy duet with Dan Hicks on Ted Shapiro's "Winter Weather" is especially peppy), a late-night, languid blues-jazz vibe dominates. The title track, a sexy "Some Cats Know," "Moments Like These," and "I Don't Know Enough About You" exude a gauzy, smoky sheen perfect for Muldaur's sensual delivery. Sticking to less popular fare, producer Randy Labbe forgoes such Lee favorites as "Big Spender," "Is That All There Is?," and "I'm a Woman" (which Muldaur had already successfully covered on 1974's Waitress in a Donut Shop) to concentrate on more obscure, often loungy material. Classy, sophisticated, supple, and subtle, Maria Muldaur's tribute to Peggy Lee is a triumph for the singer and a heartfelt homage to her subject. Both artists' legacies should benefit from this impeccably conceived project.

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