When an 18-year-old Geoff Muldaur cut his first album – 1963’s Sleepy Man Blues for Prestige – you could practically count on your fingers the number of white performers recording blues – Koerner, Ray & Glover, Dave Van Ronk, and soon, John Hammond.
He quickly joined the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, resulting in several albums and eventually a marriage to the group’s fiddler, Maria D’Amato (who dueted on the underground radio hit “Chevrolet”).
He later went into film and television scoring, but in ’98 re-emerged with Secret Handshake and has lately been gigging with the Texas Sheiks.
Muldaur is far more than a guitarist (on 1972’s Sweet Potatoes, by him and Maria, in addition to guitar and vocals, he supplied organ, piano, trombone, alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, and percussion, along with arranging horns and strings), which is perhaps why his talents on the instrument are so underrated. Luckily, other players (like Vestapol’s Stefan Grossman) are acutely aware of his six-string talents – but, thankfully, he didn’t leave his wonderful vocal talent at the door when he made this DVD.
Like Grossman’s other “Guitar Artistry Of” DVDs (David Bromberg, Rory Block, Paul Geremia), the program alternates between songs and interview segments (dispensing fascinating background information), utilizing close-ups and split screens to reveal right- and left-hand fingering positions – without becoming a “workshop.”
Muldaur plays his parlor-sized Martin in a manner not intended to impress with flash; in fact, some songs, like Eric Von Schmidt’s “Light Rain,” are beginner-level simple. But he plays the 14 selections (including Lonnie Johnson’s “Jelly Roll Baker” and Henry Thomas’ “Fishin’ Blues”) with the authority of someone who’s been doing this for half a century. Which is about how long he’s been doing it.
There’s a lot of music and history packed into this 90-minute treasure.
This article originally appeared in VG’s Jul. ’10 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.