Jenni Muldaur - Dearest Darlin' (2009)

Jenni Muldaur
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Daughter of folk-blues singer Maria Muldaur, Jenni Muldaur finds a comfortable place with jazzy torch songs and classic rhythm & blues on Dearest Darlin'. Most of the album's offerings (largely covering what are obscure classics to the average listener) are refurbished with Muldaur's sweet, innocent vocal approaches and an even more impressive, combustible band. The final results feel like fresh, old school originals. An obvious standout, NRBQ's "Blame It On the World" kicks with a walloping rhythm, cooing background vocals and a bluesy swoon that pairs well with Bonnie Raiit's "Something to Talk About." Reminiscent of early Stevie Wonder and Memphis' Hi sound, the arrangement of "Blame It On the World" grooves with enough soul to transmit a cool funk.
Daughter of folk-blues singer Maria Muldaur, Jenni Muldaur finds a comfortable place with jazzy torch songs and classic rhythm & blues on Dearest Darlin'. Most of the album's offerings (largely covering what are obscure classics to the average listener) are refurbished with Muldaur's sweet, innocent vocal approaches and an even more impressive, combustible band. The final results feel like fresh, old school originals. An obvious standout, NRBQ's "Blame It On the World" kicks with a walloping rhythm, cooing background vocals and a bluesy swoon that pairs well with Bonnie Raiit's "Something to Talk About." Reminiscent of early Stevie Wonder and Memphis' Hi sound, the arrangement of "Blame It On the World" grooves with enough soul to transmit a cool funk. Muldaur scoops deep into Southern blues on the title cut and the gospely "Hoopali," while digging deeper still into hard-hitting Aretha-soul territory on "You've Got Me Up Tight." And when Muldaur plays with riskier material from the Cold War-Atom bomb days ("I'd Rather Live Like A Hermit") and on hot tamale blues numbers like "Just Kiss Me Once," she proves a perfect actress, transforming into whatever each song requires. Muldaur does bear vocal resemblances to Dolly Parton and Brenda Lee, but offers up a more youthful jolt of soul than these foremothers. Muldaur occasionally sings with an engaging, snappy rasp that matches the modern sound makeovers of retro-soul pop singers like Amy Winehouse and Nikka Costa. For an album conjuring more renditions than originals, Dearest Darlin' provides the perfect portal to nostalgia without rehashing any of the horrid karaoke moments of recent cover projects. One good listen and you're left wishing someone would capture her live. Labels, are you listening? Notable songs: "Blame It On the World," "I've Got a Feelin'," "Just Kiss Me Once," "Just Ain't No Love," and "You've Got Me Up Tight."

Vocals: 3 stars
Lyrics: 2.5 stars
Music: 3 stars
Production: 2.5 stars
SoulTracks Call: Recommended

By J. Matthew Cobb

 

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