Geoff Muldaur

Hightone Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


When we last heard from heartland musician Geoff Muldaur in 1999, he was trying to find the grave of Blind Lemon Jefferson and was spreading his knowledge of American folk and gospel music through The Secret Handshake. (One assumes he wasn't doing them all at the same time.)

Now, with his latest release Password, Muldaur starts some new tales, ends others, and continues in the same vein as his previous effort, even though this one's a little more preachy than the last.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Like The Secret Handshake, Password is not the easiest disc to get into at times. Depending on your musical tastes, you may or may not find a spiritual song like "Wait 'Til I Put On My Robe" appealing; I happened to think this one was stretched out a bit too long. Likewise, you might not like the more modern spin put on a song like "Trouble Soon Be Over"; this, I did like, and appreciated how Muldaur tried to shed a new light onto the work of Blind Willie Johnson.

And there indeed are times on Password where less said might have been more powerful, as on "Light Rain," a track which means well but just seems to stretch on into eternity. As for "At The Christmas Ball," this might be a slice of pure Americana, but it just doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the disc's mood, and it sticks out noticably. (The fact that it's a Christmas song isn't the reason for this.) The difference between the two albums is that these moments are more pronounced on Password, while they tended to slip into the background on The Secret Handshake.

In Password's defense, there are more moments on this disc which are instantaneously joyous. Take the album's opening tracks "Kitchen Door Blues" and "Drop Down Mama" as examples - two wonderful slices of folk which make the listener smile as they tap their foot to the melodies. The same can be said for "Some Of These Days (I'll Be Gone)" and "Got To Find Blind Lemon Part Two," which place Muldaur in the best light possible. (Did Muldaur find Jefferson's grave? Listen to the song and find out.)

Muldaur assembles a fine cast of supporting musicians, including Stephen Bruton, John Herron and labelmate Dave Alvin. But in the end, it's the songs which make or break Password - and this effort is a little more hit-or-miss from Muldaur.

Rating: B-

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hightone Records, and is used for informational purposes only.