Geoff Muldaur
The Secret Handshake
Hightone Records (

This CD is like a comfortable old friend who never fails to surprise you. Geoff Muldaur's warm voice, so familiar from all those Kweskin Jug Band and Butterfield Better Days albums of the past, draws us into fascinating new arrangements of blues and gospel treasures from American musical history, alongside original compositions that you could swear are old-time classics.

Muldaur opens with his version of Vera Hall's "Wild Ox Moan",a haunting blues-yodel song originally recorded in 1959. In his notes, he mentions that Hall defied KKK terror to speak out about life in the segregation South. His tender rendition of her signature song is a fitting tribute.

Muldaur is a meticulous researcher and arranger. His majestic horn setting of Albert Bromley's "This World Is Not My Home" flows into a stunning zydeco version of Ledbelly's "Alberta". Then the autobiographical gem "Got To Find Blind Lemon" takes us along on the literal road of the blues. Muldaur pauses to quote Woody Guthrie very aptly and to suggest a Bo Diddley-jazz linkage via the ancient "hambone" beat. Dock Boggs, Sleepy John Estes, and the great players of New Orleans traditional and funeral music all are acknowledged with respect and good taste in the course of "The Secret Handshake." - Bill Nevins