This was the final night of Geoff Muldaur’s UK tour – and even on a tour that had taken in mostly small stages like London’s Green Note this gig deserved the sobriquet “intimate“, with a bare couple of dozen in the audience and Geoff Muldaur on stage blinded by the blue lights and unable to see the crowd, other than as a psychedelic blur, a situation that caused him to, tongue-in-cheek, regret dropping acid before coming out. The Stables was a convenient stop-off for an evening of acoustic blues and a few banjo tunes – American vernacular music as Muldaur describes it – it was on to Amsterdam in the morning to record some of his chamber music. Geoff Muldaur is a man of many talents.
Geoff Muldaur has retained an easy ability with the guitar and his voice is clear and strong, and his performance is relaxed and amiable – a veritable twinkle in his eye as he connects with audience members. Although there’s no avoiding his age he reflects on mortality with light amusement. Case in point is opener ‘Kitchen Door Blues‘, a setting of the Tennessee Williams poem, which is too jaunty to be morbid as Muldaur describes the death of an old lady, then reflects that “I’m not much younger than the old lady was“. Beautifully played as are other early blues songs, including an exquisite ‘Trouble soon be over‘. The rearrangement from Blind Willie Johnson’s slide guitar is attributed, again with a sly grin, to having known several people who replicated Johnson’s playing and were “dead within six months. I want to live“. It’s not all blues though, as a fine cover of Dylan’s ‘Boots of Spanish Leather‘ demonstrates – this one attracts some rueful comments about Bob and Suze and explains why Muldaur changes the sex of the travelling love as, in Muldaur’s opinion, Dylan was being unfair in his portrayal in song of his friend “it depends on how I’m feeling? That’s Bob“.
With a career that goes back to the early Sixties Geoff Muldaur also has a wealth of stories to recount alongside his music, perhaps the best of which is the introduction to ‘Got to find Blind Lemon, part 1‘ in which Muldaur confirms that the song is more or less true in recounting a reckless youthful escapade to fulfil Blind Lemon’s Jefferson wish that he be done “one kind favour – see that my grave’s kept clean“. Other musings across the evening reflect Geoff Muldaur’s amazement that he got into music when it was still possible to meet and play with the likes of John Hurt and Sleepy John Estes, amongst others. It’s a rich heritage that Geoff Muldaur both honours and continues in an organic way – faithful and respectful to the tradition and at the same time contributing something new and vibrant. The arrangement for ‘Wild Ox Moan‘ – which Vera Hall sang unaccompanied – is a perfect foil to Muldaur’s high rising vocal. When he takes on her ‘Boll Weevil‘ with banjo accompaniment he brings out the combination of humour in the song and the real threat to livelihoods of the persistent pest to cotton and corn.
The two 45 minute sets were over all too soon, it had been quite a night – folk and blues by a man who has more than paid his dues.