Maria Muldaur is using the excuse of performing at the Midnight Ramble at Levon Helm’s barn studio at 8 p.m. Saturday, August 3 (gates open at 6:30 p.m.) to spend some time in Woodstock, the home she left some four decades ago. “I get this longing to come back to my home turf and enjoy the green juicy beauty, visiting my old friends going to my favorite swimming holes,” she says. “I started coming up here around 1960, had a boyfriend who took me to Big Deep, then my friend Johnny Herald moved here.” After Albert Grossman settled in Bearsville, Maria moved here and, with her then-husband Geoff, bought a house in Glenford. “Then fate conspired and I went to California and make my first album and everything changed. Midnight at the Oasis was a big hit and that launched me into my solo career. And somewhere along the line it finally dawned on me that I didn’t have to spend the winter shoveling my driveway.”
Though she usually travels with her California band, The Red Hot Bluesiana Band, at the Ramble she’ll be playing with the Midnight Ramble Band.
“I just put out my 40th album…and it’s 40 years since Midnight at the Oasis came out. This is the year to just kind of step back and enjoy what I’ve done so far, and work with other musicians. My dear old buddy John Sebastian who was in the Even Dozen Jug Band, he’ll be our special secret surprise guest…did I say that out loud?
And God, we miss Levon so much. Saw a ramble a couple of years ago, John Sebastian and I slipped in. Levon got us right on stage. But The Ramble Band is doing a great job of carrying on the tradition. I’m so impressed with Larry Campbell’s deep musicality, he just has super musical sensibilities. He really embodies all that is Americana. It’s an honor for me to play with him. Teresa (Williams, singer), the whole rest of the band, Jimmy Weider, they’re all great. Normally I don’t just pick up bands but this is very special.”
Along the way, the audience has been witness to her critical and musical success. Her 2001 release, Richland Woman Blues, was nominated for a Grammy and by the Blues Foundation as Best Traditional Blues Album of the Year, as was the follow up to that album, Sweet Lovin’ Ol’ Soul. In 2009, with Sebastian and David Grisman, she released Maria Muldaur & Her Garden Of Joy, that got her a sixth Grammy nomination. In 2011, Steady Love reached the No. 1 position on the Living Blues Radio Charts.
Muldaur has two other projects in the works. She’s doing a tour with a Sacred Steel group calld the Campbell Brothers, and they recently did a show in Schenectady. And she’s part of the 50th Reunion of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, that also includes the Woodstock banjo legend Bill Keith.
“Yes, this is my year of musical promiscuity,” she says. “When Jim Kweskin realized that he contacted all of us and said we should do a 50th anniversary tour. So we did three fabulous shows in Japan, did some in Bay Area. We’re playing the Egg, then bringing it all back home to Club 47 which is now Passims in Harvard Square. Any of you olde hippies who come up to me and say they remember that band, this is your chance.”
The busy year will continue after Saturday, but there’ll be some regret.
“It will be hard to tear me away, I’m having such a good time here.”
Tickets for the Midnight Ramble, at 8 p.m. (gates open at 6:30 p.m.) Saturday, August 3, with the Midnight Ramble Band and special guest Maria Muldaur are $65 for seats, and $35 for standing room. They’re available at levonhelm.com, or by calling 845-679-2744. Levon Helm Studios is at 160 Plochmann Lane, Woodstock.