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Catching up with Maria

She's made 36 albums in 36 years. And Maria Muldaur is still going strong. Singing both jug band, R&B and the blues, her songs are uplifting and reach fans' hearts and minds. "I sing and people feel good," Muldaur said. "I sing a music that's timeless." Muldaur, who is best known for singing "Midnight at the Oasis," is excited to return to Lodi this month for a night of soul with her Red Hot Bluesiana Band.

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Posted: Saturday, April 10, 2010 12:00 am

The last time Maria Muldaur sang her 1974 hit, "Midnight at the Oasis" on a stage in Lodi, it was a summer day in the '80s and she shared the microphone with a lineup of musicians, including BJ Thomas.

"It was a hot afternoon, and we did a great show," Muldaur said in a phone interview this week from her seat beneath a coconut tree outside the Honolulu Airport. She was waiting for a connecting flight to take her to a 10-day Hawaiian yoga retreat.

It's been more than two decades since she performed at the Grape Bowl, but Muldaur is coming back to Lodi with expectations of another great concert that will show off both her self-described "bluesiana" side, as well as the tantalizingly soulful songs that most people remember her by.

On April 24 at 8 p.m., Muldaur will give a one-night performance in the Charlene Powers Lange Performance Theater. Though she's been busy with her jug band (known for using jugs and other homemade instruments), she is bringing her Red Hot Bluesiana Band, which has enough flavor to get the audience up and out of their seats.

"I hope they allow dancing because this music's very danceable," she said.

The concert is being presented by the Lodi Community Center, and it was Lodi's Arts and Events Coordinator Deanie Bridewell's idea to try to get Muldaur to perform at Hutchins Street Square.

"I used to love her. I still have her vinyl album," Bridewell said. "I thought it would be fun to have her."

Whether it's the '70s when Muldaur wore flowing dresses and flowers in her hair or 36 years and 36 albums later, music has been — and most assuredly is — Muldaur's drive.

With a children's jug band album being wrapped up and another "old school contemporary" R&B album, "Steady Love," in the works, Muldaur is as busy with music today as she was when she first started.

Born and raised in New York City's Greenwich Village, Muldaur was immersed in styles of music from bluegrass to gospel and even the country sounds of Hank Williams. It was there that she grew up to become involved with The Friends of Old Timey Music, and pursued a musical career alongside many of the era's musicians, including Bob Dylan. In the early years, Dylan moved to the free-spirited arts and music Mecca that she called home.

In the Village, the two formed a longtime friendship, and Dylan is still one of Muldaur's biggest influences.

"He is my all-time favorite songwriter in the universe," she said. "I met him before he was slightly famous."

Muldaur doesn't write her own music, but she prides herself on being able to pick perfect songs, many of which have been written by Dylan. Most of her songs have an uplifting message, whether it is political, financial or personal.

Her 1974 hit, "Midnight at the Oasis" is also one of Muldaur's favorites because of its well-crafted lyrics and hip, jazzy changes.

"It makes it not boring to sing night after night," Muldaur said. "It's a timeless little song."

Even now, Maldaur loves singing "Midnight at the Oasis" for big crowds. As the soft music starts, she gets gratification out of seeing people's smiles and the memories that flash across their faces when they hear her song.

"That song was the soundtrack to many of love and lust affairs. I could make quite the X-rated book out of the stories people have told me … all kinds of funny and sexy and touching stories," she said, laughing.

Even in her mid-60s, Muldaur is keeping busy. She believes there's an all-American jug band generation rising up, and she's in the midst of it. Her newest album, "Maria Muldaur and her Garden of Joy" takes her back to memory lane. The idea for that album came to her one day last year when she was driving around in the rain listening to the blues flood from her car speakers.

"I got real nostalgic for that funky, soulful sound," she said.

While she'll go back to her roots with a few songs in Lodi, she plans to fill Hutchins Street Square with the Bluesiana, the term she made up that "describes the kind of New Orleans blues" and "what I call swamp funk."

When it comes to the blues, what Muldaur likes most is that it's straight forward, and sometimes, even a little harsh.

"In the blues, people tell it like it is. They don't whitewash it. People know men are going to cheat, and they express that. They're having a hard time, but they're going to get through," she said. "That's why I sing the blues."

Contact Lodi Living Editor Lauren Nelson at laurenn@lodinews.com.

Maria Muldaur at a glance

Biggest hit: "Midnight at the Oasis."
Hometown: Greenwich Village in New York City.
Where she lives now: Marin County.
Hobbies: Cooking, swimming and yoga.
Number of albums: 36.
Recently released: "Maria Muldaur and Her Garden of Joy."
Soon to be released: Her jug band children's album.
In the works: "Steady Love," an R&B Bluesiana, old school contemporary album.
Did you know: Muldaur was the third woman to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.

Maria Muldaur and her Red Hot Bluesiana Band live in Lodi

Where: Charlene Powers Lange Performance Theater, Hutchins Street Square, 125 S. Hutchins St.
Date: April 24.
Time: 8 p.m.
Tickets: $25.
Information: 333-5550, http://www.hutchinsstreetsquare.com">www.hutchinsstreetsquare.com.

From jug bands to love songs, here is Maria through the years

1963: "Even Dozen Jug Band"
1964: "Jug Band Music"
1965: "See Reverse Side for Title"
1966: "The Best of Jim Kweskin Jug Band"
1967: "Garden of Joy"
1968: "Pottery Pie"
1971: "Sweet Potatoes"
1973: "Maria Muldaur
1974: "Waitress in a Donut Shop"
1976: "Sweet Harmony"
1978: "Southern Winds"
1979: "Open Your Eyes"
1981: "Gospel Nights"
1982: "There is a Love"
1984: "Sweet and Slow"
1986: "Transblucency"
1987: "Live in London"
1990: "On the Sunnyside"
1992: "Louisiana Love Call"
1994: "Jazzabelle"
1994: "Meet Me at Midnite"
1996: "Fanning the Flames"
1998: "Southland of the Heart"
1999: "Meet Me Where They Play the Blues"
2001: "Richland Woman Blues"
2002: "Animal Crackers in My Soup"
2003: "Classic Americana Live"
2004: "Sisters & Brothers"
2004: "I'm a Woman"
2004: "Love Wants to Dance"
2005: "Sweet Lovin' Ol' Soul"
2006: "Heart of Mine — Love Songs of Bob Dylan"
2008: "Yes We Can"
2009: "Maria Muldair and Her Garden of Joy"

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