On a first casual listening I thought this was a clever pastiche of the music of the 1920s and 30s. When Maria Muldaur first heard Tuba Skinny, sight unseen as it were, she thought she was hearing a band from the period. We were both wrong. Let’s Get Happy Together contains twelve period songs and Tuba Skinny are a very modern band, featuring brass, clarinet, banjo and washboard who play that old time music with skill and zest.
The album is well named. It is, for the most part, upbeat and lively; the opener, ‘I Like You Best Of All’, is a prime example with the brass and clarinet swapping breaks. One of the best things about the record is the way that Maria steps back and allows Tuba Skinny room to play which they do with great exuberance. The album isn’t without a couple of flaws: the title track, which comes in second hard on the heels of its predecessor, sound like a coda – same style and same key. This could be deliberate, of course, but it jars a little. The other thing is that I’m convinced that someone is playing ‘Making Whoopee’ somewhere in most of the tracks.
Enough of this nit-picking, though. ‘Be Your Natural Self’ was written and originally performed by Frankie Jaxon, one of the first gender-fluid artists and Maria contrasts that with the bluesy swing of ‘Delta Bound’ with Tuba Skinny playing such a long intro that you begin to think that the track is an instrumental and the same holds for ‘Swing You Sinners’. This was the way things were done back then when the band leader got top billing.
I’ve never associated Irving Berlin with this style of music but he was the author of ‘He Ain’t Got Rhythm’ and his witty lyrics are perfectly in tune with the word-play of other songs like ‘I Go For That’, originally sung by Dorothy Lamour. ‘Patience & Fortitude’ keeps up the pace before another song recorded by Jaxon, ‘Some Sweet Day’, slows things down before the record closes with two blues songs, ‘Big City Blues’ and ‘Road Of Stone’.
I’m fascinated to encounter a set of songs that I’d never heard before, even though they were written and recorded by some of the most popular artists of the era. Sometimes Let’s Get Happy Together is deep and moving but mostly it’s a whole lot of fun.
Artist’s website: https://www.mariamuldaur.com/
‘I Like You Best Of All’: