Maria Muldaur wanted to do something a little special for her 40th album (depending on how you count it). And paying tribute to one of her key influences on "...First Came Memphis Minnie" seemed like the perfect way to celebrate.
"She is one of my biggest influences and inspirations," notes Muldaur, 69, who recruited fellow artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Rory Block, Ruthie Foster, Koko Taylor, Alvin Youngblood Hart and others to take part in the project. The Louisiana-born Minnie (real name Lizzie Douglas) died in 1973 at the age of 76 but, according to Muldaur, made an indelible impact on the blues landscape -- and even wrote and recorded the first version of the Led Zeppelin-popularized "When the Levee Breaks."
"She really is a seminal figure in the development of western blues music. She migrated up to Chicago and was one of the very first blues guitarists to pulg in and go electric. She really paved the way for a lot of other artists and helped create what became known as the electric Chicago blues sound, which morphed into R&B and then on into rock 'n' roll.
"So we really owe her a big debt of gratitude."
One of the most bittersweet tracks on the album is the late Phoebe Snow's rendition of "In My Girlish Days" from her 1976 album "It Looks Like Snow." "I met (Snow) in 1970, and that evening we both discvoered we loved Memphis Minnie and bonded over that fact," Muldaur recalls. Snow planned to record a fresh track for "...First Came Memphis Minnie" but suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in January of 2010 and passed away 15 months later.
"She was very enthusiastic and wanted to do a cut," Muldaur says, "but we were very blessed to be able to license the song from 1976. I couldn't have done the album without something from (Snow) on it."
Maria Muldaur and Her Red Hot Bluesiana Band perform at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13 at Callahan's Music Hall, 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills. Tickets are $25 and $35. Call 248-858-9508 or visit www.atcallahans.com.