Last year at this time, Muldaur was forced to cancel his Caffe Lena performance, laid low by pneumonia. This time around he was slowed down by a bout of the flu, but he persevered. And he managed to turn in a fine show, indeed, despite the fact that Muldaur spent much of the night fishing around to find the right key and altered melodies to match his slightly lowered vocal capabilities.
He worked his way through a wide swath of American music – jazz gems (“Gee Baby, Ain’t I Good to You”), blues nuggets (“Jelly Roll Baker”), children’s songs (“Chicken”), New Orleans gospel hymns (“Just a Little While to Stay Here”) and jug band classics (“Fishin’ Blues”).
A delightfully low-key and instantly recognizable vocal stylist and a sweet, sweet fingerpicking guitarist, Muldaur’s most notable talent is as an arranger. He makes each song his very own, without an ounce of flash of showboating. So it was glorious to hear the haunting blues of “I Can’t See Your Face,” as well as “Small Town Talk,” a grand old Bobby Charles tune that Muldaur originally recorded with Paul Butterfield’s Better Days.
And even better yet was his rendition of Eric Von Schmidt’s delicate blues, “Light Rain,” full of amazing grace and fragile beauty. And Muldaur’s encore was a similarly fashioned “Heavenly Grass,” his fine filigreed guitar picking and keening blues moan wrapped around lyrics culled for a Tennessee Williams poem.
That’s who Muldaur is – a blues poet.
Geoff Muldaur playing his signature Geoff Muldaur model Martin guitar. “I’m very proud of it,” he explained regarding the honor. “It’s like being a mason and having a brick named after you.”
(Photo by Andrzej Pilarczyk)