East Side Slim
The Muldaur name is likely familiar to most anyone who is reading this review. Jenni is the daughter of Geoff and Maria Muldaur, and with both parents being professional musicians Jenni grew up surrounded by music. Jenni possesses a fantastic voice, and began singing professionally by her early teens (singing background vocals on some of her Dad’s albums.) Over the years she has sung in the employ of artists such as Todd Rungren, Eric Clapton, Meatloaf, Linda Thompson, John Cale, David Byrne and Lou Reed, just to name-drop a few past employers. It’s easy to see why Jenni is in such demand for her vocal skills upon listening to this CD, as she possesses a highly sensual voice, conveying a good-girl bad-girl quality – like mother, like daughter!
This album, Dearest Darlin’, isn’t a blues album as such but it is an exceedingly fine R&B/soul album. This thing oozes soul from every 0 and 1 on the disc (not as cool as saying oozing from every groove...East Side Slim grew up on vinyl). The disc contains an eclectic group of songs, comprised of 11 covers and 1 Jenni Muldaur original, with the cover tunes tending toward more obscure material primarily from the 1950s and 1960s. The covers tunes were originally associated with a wide range of performers, including such artists as Big Maybelle, James Brown, Bo Diddley, Lee Dorsey, NRBQ, Charlie Rich, etc…
A special mention should be given to the guitar work on this CD. The guitar parts were supplied by Mr. Sean Costello, and they were among the last recordings he made in his (tragically) shortened lifetime. His playing here is similar to that on his last couple of solo albums, where he was moving from a high-energy rocking blueser toward a more soul/classic R&B influenced sound. His work on Jenni’s album is perfectly complementary to her interpretation of said songs, as is the playing of all the musicians who contributed to this fine album.
Dearest Darlin’ is actually Jenni’s 2nd solo project, as she released her 1st recording in 1992 while signed to Warner Brothers Records. More recently, Jenni started the Dandelion Music production company (of which she serves as Executive Producer and Creative Director), primarily as a vehicle to drive her successful commercial music placement efforts. Dearest Darlin’ is the 1st release on Dandelion Music.
The Songs: (song credits and previous performers listed in parentheses)
1. I’ve Got A Feelin’ – (Sidney Wyche – Big Maybelle)
--This one is a syncopated burner with cool horn charts and fiery guitar (courtesy of Sean Costello.) A great kick-off to a fine album!
2. You’re Breaking Me Up – (Bobby Robinson – Lee Dorsey)
--Up-tempo R&B workout riding blasting horns and great skins work from drummer James Wormsworth.
3. Just Ain’t No Love – (Eugene Record, Carl Davis – Barbara Acklin)
--Think of this one as an up-tempo soulful Brill Building pop tune on steroids. The organ and baritone sax sound great, as does Costello’s chiming guitar. It’s hard to go wrong with Bari sax. Jenni pushes her vocal here very hard, breaking into a Janis Joplin shout during the fade-out of the song. This girl can flat out sing (could it be the genes?)
4. I’d Rather Live Like A Hermit – (Robert Shad – Frankie Ervin with Austin McCoy & His Combo)
--This song takes us into big band jazzy territory, although very accessible and with the R&B roots very near the surface. Think along the lines of Brian Setzer’s work with his Orchestra and you’ll have some idea of how this sounds – which is great!
5. Blame It On The World – (Joey Spampinato, Johnny Spampinato - NRBQ)
--Arrangement-wise this is one of the simpler tunes on the CD, but it might be the cut that really hooks you on this CD. The melody is incredibly catchy, Jenni sings in an oh-so-sexy voice, and the percussion work is out of this world. And if that isn’t enough, there’s a cool organ solo about 2 minutes in to the song.
6. Dearest Darlin’ – (Ellas McDaniel aka Bo Diddley)
--This is a very interesting take on Bo Diddley’s classic song. It is a vocal duet with Joseph Arthur (who sounds a bit like Dr. John in his younger days). Costello is splashing psychedelic super-fuzzed guitar all around, and the percussion is locked-in on a heavy Bo Diddley beat. This one is a lot of fun!
7. Hopali – (traditional arrangement, Alan Lomax)
--And now for something completely different…shades of Jessie Mae Hemphill performing a holler while fronting a fife and drum band. This is quite sparse, with only hand-claps, bongos and Jenni’s call singing to the guys’ response singing. Very deep and very cool.
8. Lost Someone – (James Brown, Bobby Byrd, Lloyd Eugene Stallworth – James Brown)
--Oh…my…God…THIS shows off Jenni’s vocal abilities to an amazing degree - slow, soulful, sexy, and spot-on perfect. This is a feature for Jenni’s voice backed by Costello’s tasteful guitar work. Although originally a James Brown tune, for this rendition think along the lines of a mid-‘60s Stax slow-boiler for an appreciation of how this sounds. If all was fair in the music world, this version of this song would be a huge hit. At least we are blessed with being able to listen to it.
9. Just Kiss Me Once – (Adalia Davis, George Motola – Meredith Howard)
--We’ve moved into jazzy, lounge-y, late-night territory here. We get to hear some nice piano work from Brian Jackson, and if you listen closely you’ll hear some of Mama Maria’s vocal yodel in Jenni’s voice. And once again, very cool horn charts.
10. You’ve Got Me Up Tight – (Al Gorgoni, Chip Taylor – Evie Sands)
--Here is a guitar-based tune, allowing the work of Sean Costello to shine, and the organ work is not bad, either. Although a mid-tempo tune, this one cooks with gas! I’m reminded of Roy Head getting down and rockin’ out.
11. There’s Another Place That I Can’t Go – (Fred Tobias, Lee Pockriss – Charlie Rich)
--Shades of Sonny and Cher, or maybe Dusty Springfield? Possibly so. We’ve got a little farfisa-sounding organ or maybe a Vox, some finger snapping drums (very cool percussion work on this tune!), Cropper-like guitar fills and plenty of Jenni.
12. Comatose Town – (Jenni Muldaur)
--The set ender and the only tune on the album credited to the pen of Jenni Muldaur. It’s unlike anything else found on the CD, but in a good way. It’s atmospheric, along the lines of Chris Isaak’s sound, but more late-night R&B/Jazz inspired. You have to love the brushed drums – there’s no choice involved here, you just have to. So says East Side Slim.
East Side Slim had to cool down a bit after listening to this CD. Ms. Muldaur possesses one of those incredibly sexy voices, the kind that pulls you in to each and every song she performs. Her sidemen on this CD are (and were) all A-list players, who all play with great taste and feeling here, allowing Jenni’s singing to shine without being over shone by the instrumentation. Judging from this effort, we can likely look forward to many years of great music from Jenni. Yep, there’s definitely something musical in her genes. Let’s rate this bad girl – I am giving an STLBluesometer rating of 4.50 to Jenni Muldaur’s Dearest Darlin’.
It really is a good one, folks!
For more information about Jenni Muldaur, see the following websites:
http://jennimuldaur.com | http://www.myspace.com/jennimuldaur
- aka "East