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Geoff Muldaur

+ {Geoff & Maria Muldaur}

Born August 12, 1943, Pelham, Brooklyn, New York, GEOFF MULDAUR plied his trade and cut his proverbial teeth during the early 60s, through performing around the blues and folk revival circuit in Cambridge and Woodstock. Having issued a low-key country-blues-covers LP for Prestige Records, SLEEPY MAN BLUES (1963) {*7}, the singer-guitarist promoted the set at the famous Club 47. The album itself featured DAVE VAN RONK and ERIC VON SCHMIDT on the works of, among many: Lonnie Johnson (`Jelly Roll Baker’), Blind Willie Johnson (`The Rain Don’t Fall On Me’), Jim Jackson (`This Morning She Was Gone’), Peg Leg Howell (`Georgia Skin Game’), SLEEPY JOHN ESTES (`Everybody Ought To Make A Change’ and `Drop Down Mama’), BUKKA WHITE (`Good Gin Blues’, `Aberdeen, Mississippi Blues’ and the title track), etc. By the time of its release, MULDAUR had already taken up an invitation to join fellow folkie and old-timey enthusiast, JIM KWESKIN, whom he often shared the odd stage with in their Boston University “jugband” days.
It was during this heady 4-to-5-year stretch that Geoff met and subsequently married the band’s fiddler, Maria D’Amato (now Muldaur), also a former member of the EVEN DOZEN JUG BAND ensemble. Pre-empting the soon-to-be husband-wife team of RICHARD & LINDA THOMPSON by a good half-decade, GEOFF & MARIA MULDAUR (more like John & Yoko with clothes on!) delivered two LPs, the first, as depicted by the in-bed sleeveshot, an “under the covers” set entitled POTTERY PIE (1969) {*7}. With songs ranging from folk to swingtime-jazz, country, gospel, funky-blues and nostalgia, the record was, in a word, eclectic.
The list was long and varied, from ERIC VON SCHMIDT’s `Catch It’ and DYLAN’s `I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight’, to George “Fathead” Thomas’s `New Orleans Hopscop Blues’, to the trad-cue `Trials Troubles Tribulations’ and `Prairie Lullabye’. If one could take a breath, one could check out `Guide Me, O Great Jehovah’, Memphis Minnie’s `Me And My Chauffeur Blues’ and Ida Cox/Son House’s `Death Letter Blues’, and finally, Hoagy Carmichael’s `Georgia On My Mind’ and Ary Barroso and Bob Russell’s `Brazil’ (Geoff’s version was later used in Terry Gilliam’s film of the same name!).
The second and final instalment of these Geoff & Maria timepieces, SWEET POTATOES {*7}, surfaced from their Woodstock commune confines in 1972, a confident and relaxing set, traditionally rich and combining contemporary folk, blues and steely country; only CHUCK BERRY’s rare `Havana Moon’, Hoagy’s `Lazy Bones’ and the Davis-Ramirez-Sherman number, `Lover Man’, competed with Maria’s stepping-stone to fame – the following year and now divorced, she topped the charts with the cool and breezy soft-rock gem, `Midnight At The Oasis’. Meanwhile, Geoff teamed up with PAUL BUTTERFIELD (who provided the key harmonica parts for the couple’s swansong set) on his soft-blues sets `Better Days’ and `It All Comes Back’.
Hiding the hurt and pushing back the pain, at least in song-(and-dance!), MULDAUR unleashed two contrasting solo sets, the first being the crooner-cloned swing-jazz-meets-nostalgia-blues IS HAVING A WONDERFUL TIME (1975) {*3}; a sad album indeed with the possible exception of the uplifting JACKIE WILSON nugget, `Higher & Higher’, or the B&W cinematic-esque medley first half, `I Want To Be A Sailor’.
Follow-up MOTION (1976) {*4} could only be defined as light soft-rock with tints of anything-goes, i.e. ALLEN TOUSSAINT’s `Southern Nights’, Danny Whitten’s `I Don’t Want To Talk About It’ (a subsequent hit for ROD STEWART), and a gay-disco re-vamp romp of `Hooray For Hollywood’. Fortunately, there was a reunification of sorts for MULDAUR and the blues with the release of GEOFF & AMOS (1978) {*5} – incorporating Woodstock buddy Amos Garrett and some classical recitals, plus the back-to-basics R&B set, BLUES BOY (1979) {*6} the latter showcasing the works of Crudup, DOMINO, ESTES and Burnett. The fewer words can say (or hiccup) about his “comeback” set I AIN’T DRUNK (1986) {*3} the better, although tongue-in-cheek might be three.
Returning to the studio after a transitional wake-up period and from many a folk or blues festival performance, GEOFF MULDAUR (and some top-shelf backing from Garrett, DAVID GRISMAN, Sean Hopper, Turner Stephen Bruton, Hal Ketchum, Lenny Pickett, Bill Rich, John Magnie, et al) finally released SECRET HANDSHAKE (1998) {*7}. Sitting nicely next to a couple of GM originals, `Got To Find Blind Lemon, Part 1’ and `I Believe I’ll Go Home’, “serious” blues-folk highlights came via LEADBELLY’s `Alberta’, the trad `Mistreated Mama’ and a twosome from Arthur Brumley, `This World Is Not My Home’ and `Just A Little While To Stay Here’.
MULDAUR’s resurgence was complete through the release of further post-millennium sets PASSWORD (2000) {*6} – augmented by an all-star cast including Richard Greene, DAVID LINDLEY, Dave Alvin, Wally Ingram, Roswell Rudd and sisters KATE & ANNA McGARRIGLE; the live-in Bremen, Germany CD, BEAUTIFUL ISLE OF SOMEWHERE {*7} was delivered in ‘03. Forgiving Geoff for one odd, self-indulgent jazz glitch, PRIVATE ASTRONOMY (also 2003) {*4}, the man was back for the eclectic swing-and-be-happy set, GEOFF MULDAUR AND THE TEXAS SHEIKS (2009) {*7}; his band at the time included dobro player Cindy Cashdollar, bassist Bruce Hughes, fiddler Suzy Thompson and guitarist Johnny Nicholas.
Several years down the line, Geoff was back with JIM KWESKIN for a fresh set of songs, `Penny’s Farm’ (2016).
© MC Strong/MCS 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Sep2016

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