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Dearest Darlin [Digipak]
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  • Dearest Darlin' might be R&B/soul that's pretty retro by the standards of the year it was released, 2009. Just one of the dozen songs is a Jenni Muldaur original, and all but a couple of the rest were originally recorded in the 1950s and 1960s. This is a hell of a lot better than most early 21st century releases in the classic soul/blues idiom that reach back several decades for inspiration, however. Muldaur has a spunky, raunchy, edgy voice that's far less reverential than most singers working this kind of repertoire, almost sounding like Brenda Lee gone raw and bluesy at times. And the repertoire, in another refreshing change from the way these albums usually go, reflects the soul of a true record collector in its canny selection of quality songs that haven't been covered to death. Not a one of these tunes is an overdone standard, and the breadth of covers is admirable, taking in songs -- some of them quite obscure -- originally done by noted R&B/soul artists Lee Dorsey, Big Maybelle, Barbara Acklin, Bo Diddley, and James Brown. White singers with a lot of soul are also paid tribute to with Evie Sands and Charlie Rich covers, and as a further testament to the record's general unpredictability, there's also a number originally done as a field recording in 1934, as well as NRBQ's "Blame It on the World." It's really only on the sole Muldaur composition, the closing "Comatose Town," that you hear anything of the more jazzy/torch song inclinations of her famous mother, Maria Muldaur. The playing throughout complements Jenni's style well, with tight execution that doesn't sacrifice a soulful spontaneous feel. ~ Richie Unterberger
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