Geoff Muldaur,
Blues Boy
(Bullseye/Rounder, 2001)

Geoff Muldaur's Blues Boy, released in Rounder's Bullseye Blues Basics series, is a set of 12 songs taken from two records Muldaur did in the late 1970s, now re-released on this CD. Although they were recorded more than 20 years ago they're as fresh as if they were recorded yesterday. That's one of the strengths of the blues, I think; they don't get dated, and this excellent album is proof of that, for those that need it.

These are classic blues songs for the most part, and Muldaur gives them a classic acoustic arrangement. It's not just him and a guitar, though; other instruments include saxophones, mandolins, jugs and even a flugelhorn -- not as gimmicks, but as integral parts of the blues.

Muldaur's voice is perfect for blues, alternating rough and smooth, and full of feeling. He doesn't oversell the lyrics, yet his passion comes through. He trusts the musicians to do their part, too -- everyone clearly knows what they're doing, but there's not a hint of being over-rehearsed. His admiration for classic country blues is obvious, and he honors those singers without being a pale imitation.

"Bad Feet" deserves to be well-known. It's a funny yet serious song about one of the biggest trials of working service or retail: those aching feet. "That's All Right" is another great one, blending an old-time country blues vocal with an early rock accompaniment. And I love the classic sound of "Walking to New Orleans."

His two original pieces are worth a special mention, since they're both very different from the rest of the album. "Chicken Stew Part 1" is called autobiographical, and has a pronounced jazz sound with the vocals acting more like instruments than as a means to tell a tale. "Dance of the Colored Elves" is a perfect name for the last piece here, with its cheerful sound and intricate mandolins.

I wish the liner notes had been more informative. Half the available space was taken up with an essay on Muldaur's life and work, and that was interesting. The songs got scanted, though, with only copyright information listed and no notes or musician credits. The musicians are listed, but without any information about the songs on which they played.

This is an excellent album, and I'm pleased that Rounder is reissuing such good stuff. It is, perhaps, more a blues album for folk fans than for hardcore blues fans, but I recommend it highly to both.

[ by Amanda Fisher ]
Rambles: 27 October 2001

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