Packed hall greets Maria
MARIA MULDAUR AND HER BAND
Common Fence Point Music
BY SCOTT HEMEON
A little of New Orleans' weather, music and spirit music blew
into Portsmouth's Common Fence Point Community Hall Saturday night
tropical storm-like conditions
and Maria Muldaur and her band blew into town.
I waded through puddles and made my way to the Anthony Road hall
to find a sold-out show and people clapping on the porch. It became
that I should have arrived earlier. Everyone had staked out their spots at
the tables and unpacked picnics.
I got out from under the rain and lightning and was greeted by a wave of
body heat, the sweet smell of wine, beer and food and Muldaur's rollicking
Other than the absence of tobacco smoke, I might have thought I was in the
South somewhere - so nice to have the familial feel of B.Y.O.B., home-cooked
food, casual seating and organic music. The hall became equal parts blues
club, church hall, hoedown and juke joint.
Muldaur was smooth and smoky and delivered a brand of music she
described as "Bluesiana." Many
references were made to the recent events in New Orleans; Muldaur had been
so torn up over New Orleans' suffering, her band had to talk her into performing
songs about the Crescent City on this tour. She explained how a resident was
uplifted by hearing her perform some in San Francisco and how there wouldn't
be much left of her set if she didn't. It proved to her that "the city
was under water, but its spirit wasn't." She then cranked up a spicy cover
of J.J. Cale's "New Orleans."
She questioned the crowd's enthusiasm at one point as she couldn't
hear them, but I posit that they were more mesmerized by the soulful
playing than they were sleepy. Her soul sister Del Ray on guitar, described
as such because of their mutual fascination for Memphis Minnie and Bessie
Smith, was pickin' all over the place and provided the sprinkles of acoustic
the stinging electric lead. It seemed the musical purpose of Muldaur's
recent work and this performance was to rescue from obscurity the "queens of
the blues" for her audience and America.
She finished up her two sets and the night with songs she plays
every night, everywhere. She had the crowd yelling "it's not the meat" as she
answered with "it's the motion." Finally, she recalled the history
of the song everyone knew and wanted to hear. "Midnight at the Oasis" climbed
the charts slowly through 1973 and 1974 she explained, eventually going platinum,
and it was in Muldaur's words, "very good" to her.
She seemed to enjoy the crowd, especially the venue (a favorite of
guitarist Del Ray), and exclaimed that it had "the bitchin'est rice puddin'." I
concur. Can I get a witness?