Maria Muldaur

Love Wants to Dance

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Maria Muldaur's website quotes her as saying, "My goal is to continue growing and improving as a singer of soulful songs all of my life." It's a single point of focus that has steered her long career through some tricky twists and turns and has provided an anchor for a remarkably consistent recording career. Love Wants to Dance is an elegant, swinging celebration of love in song played to a soundtrack of jazzy blues and sleek R&B. As has become her norm, Muldaur and co-producer Randy Labbe select a wonderfully eclectic mix of material and proceed to color and nuance their hidden elements. Muldaur's voice, which has become a gorgeously textured contralto, emotes effortlessly without giving in to cheap sentiment. Her delivery is flawless and dignified, as well as emotionally honest. The recording fits together seamlessly, as it examines love in all of its phases and stages, from hesitation to swooning bliss to tension and dissolution, as well as rebirth. While there isn't a dud in the bunch, there are some clear standouts, among them the Ivan Linns/Paul Williams' penned "Love Dance," with its shimmering faux Caribbean backbeat, and a stellar reading of Blossom Dearie's "Isn't That the Thing to Do," where want falls like rain form Muldaur's treatment of the tune. The slide guitar and piano-drifting blues of Bob Dylan's "Moonlight" is done in her best Bluesiana style. But it is in Nashville songwriter Brenda Burns' two selections here where Muldaur finds herself completely at home. "Baby You're My Destiny," with its languid tempo, jazz guitar, and gracefully yet directly suggestive lyrics, roams the terrain where carnal and emotional desire are poetically entwined; Muldaur creates this intoxicating weave with grace. The other Burns' tune, "The Strong Stand Alone" is a bluesy, noirish, torch song, and Muldaur 's vocal performance is timeless. It could have been recorded in the 1940s; it could have been sung last night to an absent lover; the shadows and dark corners that keep the protagonist in a lonely silhouette are murky, but unmistakable in which emotions are being given utterance. This is a gorgeous record, one that in its subdued, classy presentation showcases the totality of Muldaur's considerable gift.

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