Maria Muldaur’s biggest hit was Midnight at the Oasis (1974), but that hour is way past the bedtimes of the audience for her newest album.
It’s called On the Sunny Side, and it was just released on tape and compact disc by the Redway, Calif., children’s record company Music for Little People.
A kids record? From the sexy, sultry singer who brought us ”Don’t You Feel My Leg”?
”The last thing I was thinking I’d be doing is kids’ stuff,” Muldaur explained at a Sunny Side recording session. ”I haven’t been seeking it.” Maybe not, but it found her. During the past year the R&B singer contributed to two other children’s records: Family Folk Festival (another Music for Little People offering) and American Children for Alacazam! Records. She also narrates and sings on Baboons, Butterflies and Me, a children’s video produced by the Nature Company stores.
There are experienced musicians on the premises for these small-fry sessions — the highly regarded David Grisman plays tenor banjo and mandolin on Muldaur’s newwalbum, and Canadian children’s star Fred Penner (known to American kids via the Nickelodeon cable channel) contributes vocals, as does Muldaur’s daughter, Jennie May Muldaur, a backup singer for Todd Rundgren. But Sunny Side’s other supporting vocalists aren’t exactly session veterans: 11-year-old Amber McInnis, 6-year-old Fauna Rose Ostrow, and Fauna’s 4-year-old sister, Iona.
Leib Ostrow — father of Iona and Fauna and founder of Music for Little People — says the seeds for the project were planted early this year when he asked Muldaur to contribute a few cuts to a sing-along tape. ”After we produced the first couple of songs,” he says, ”she said we should just do a whole tape for kids.” The songs Ostrow and Muldaur (who share producer credit) chose for On the Sunny Side aren’t typical kid fare, but encouraging sing- alongs is still a goal.
”We’re hoping that because it’s songs parents and kids know, it will inspire families to sing together,” Ostrow explains. It’s an eclectic mix, everything from country classics (Jimmie Rodgers’ ”Prairie Lullaby,” which longtime fans will remember from Muldaur’s days with the Jim Kweskin Jug Band) to 1920s and ’30s ditties (”Side by Side” and ”Dream a Little Dream”). Also included is a moving rendition of Dolly Parton’s ”Coat of Many Colors.”
”This record’s got a lot of sounds of Americana on it,” Muldaur says, ”sounds that kids don’t get to hear on the radio or TV. It’s all acoustic instruments — banjos, guitars, harmonicas — and no synthesizers, I’m proud to say. It’s quality music.”