Charmingly subtitled Old Highway 61 Revisited, Maria Muldaur’s latest is billed as a follow-up to her Grammy-nominated 2001 release Richland Woman Blues, but stands on its own feet as a self-contained chapter in her decades-long survey of blues, roots and folk music.
Richland Woman Blues was, the story goes, inspired by a visit Muldaur made to the grave of Memphis Minnie, the seminal blues guitarist of the 1920s and ’30s. Sweet Lovin’ Ol’ Soul is a more detailed examination (or homage, if you will) of Minnie’s oeuvre, featuring at least half a dozen tunes by or associated with her, including “I Am Sailin’”, “Lookin’ The World Over”, and the laughing-to-keep-from-crying lament “Tricks Ain’t Walkin’”, in which times are so hard that even the streetwalkers are resorting to stickups to make ends meet.
Redolent of steel guitar and tinny piano, the music here is redolent of hair pomade, Prohibition hooch, and the loamy scent of the Depression-era south. But, as Muldaur makes clear in her liner notes, the songs she essays are timeless. “This is a bluesy old world,” she writes, “and we’re always going to need some blues to help get us through!” Rest assured, Maria, Sweet Lovin’ Ol’ Soul helps to ease the passage.