After 26 years and 24 albums, folk/blues/gospel singer Maria Muldaur decided after a visit to Beale Street in Memphis to do a tribute album of pre-war blues. While this is far from an original idea, Muldaur grittily covers some classic tunes with the help of like-minded musicians like Bonnie Raitt, Dave Matthews, Taj Mahal and Alvin Youngblood Hart. Keeping the arrangements simple, Muldaur seems liberated by the material, and her powerful voice growls and soars on the album. She seems not so much to be covering these songs, as singing through them, particularly her sublime duet with Bonnie Raitt on Mississippi Fred McDowell's gospel blues, "It's a Blessing." Elsewhere, Muldaur spits out double entendres with glee in the raucous "Me and My Chauffeur Blues" and the saloon ballad "Put It Right Here," which features Matthews on piano. Filled with a tenacious spirit, this album is a rich and rewarding listen.
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