The unusual pairing of Maria Muldaur and Tanya Tucker, a couple of aggressively un-demure singers who assaulted the top of the pop and country charts, respectively, in the early 1970s, was conjured up by the Red Hat Society — the national, even international “disorganization” of thousands of middle-aged, grandmotherly types who, bent on regaining “silliness’ in their lives, get together in various party-time towns, all dressed in screaming red hats and purple clothes. This was a perfect match of audience and acts, like catching Sam Cooke at the Harlem Square Club.
Muldaur focused on declamatory versions of songs from the no-guff-from-guys vaudeville blues women: Bessie Smith’s “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”, Victoria Spivey’s “My Handy Man”, Ida Cox’s “One Hour Mama”. These had this crowd alternately cheering and blushing. Maria’s range is lower than it was 30-40 years back in her pop and jug-band days, which made the obligatory “Midnight At The Oasis” reprise a bit of a stretch. A hot Dixieland and blues ensemble backed her throughout.
Some of the crowd knew Muldaur’s repertoire well enough to request relative obscurities, but most of the several thousand feisty ladies in the hotel ballroom were there for the inimitable honky-tonk of Tanya Tucker. She was in fine form, shaking booty, letting notes soar, and revisiting the patented Elvis-meets-strippers struts she featured in the ’80s. Nobody in this crowd was going to suggest that the hot moves should be left to twentysomething hardbodies.
Tucker’s hit resume is so long that she could do mainly chart-toppers for an hour plus. “Strong Enough To Bend”, “Love Me Like You Used To” and “I’ll Come Back As Another Woman” (“in a red hat,” she added this time) had the ladies crowding the apron of the stage and fist-pumping. A pairing of “The Window Up Above” and “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad” (the latter first performed by Tucker at age 9) saluted her musical mentors George and Tammy.
It was also something of a family night, with Tanya’s mom and her sister LaCosta in the audience (and saluted musically) — and with the introduction of Tanya’s own hard country singing daughter, Presley Tucker, possessor of a voice that’s as riveting as her mama’s was at the same age. And, as the inevitable “Delta Dawn” rousing closer reminded us all, that was — and is — a voice to be reckoned with.