In the liner notes to Password, music writer Peter Guralnick calls Geoff Muldaur's music "transformative." That is, the taking of familiar forms and turning them into something distinctive, an integral expression of the singer himself. Since Guralnick perfectly captures the essence of Muldaur's art, I simply wish to add a few words of commentary, particularly for those readers who have never experienced Geoff Muldaur.
Think of the titles on Muldaur's albums: "Password" and "Secret Handshake." A password and a secret handshake are ways to identify yourself to a guard. It enables one to be accepted or admitted to a deeply mysterious place. On this CD, it is the former lives and experiences of an American past.
The transformation that takes place in Maldaur's roots music is nothing less than a voyage to an arcane, hidden America. It's a land where old people, when they are ready to die, fly out the kitchen door one night ("Kitchen Door Blues"). It's a ghostly grail passed down from Sleepy John Estes ("Drop Down Mama") to Maldaur. The people in this land know how to take their pleasures ("At The Christmas Ball"). But unlike the eternal youth of most of our contemporary music, they also know we cannot continue to remake ourselves over and over. There is an end. We are finite, time is fleeting and we need to know who we really are. ("Wait 'Til I Put On My Robe" and "Trouble Soon Be Over"). Legendary masters like Charlie Patton ("Some Of These Days") are the prophetic voices in this land. Even the land, itself, is alive and speaks to us ("Prairie Lullaby").
The parting song on Password is Muldaur's "Got To Find Blind Lemon," a tune about his pilgrimage to the Texas grave of Blind Lemon Jefferson. The purpose of the visit is to see that his grave is kept cleaned. It's a metaphor for Geoff Muldaur's art. By teaching us the password and the secret handshake, Muldaur takes us past the door into the living past of American roots music. This is no cemetery. It's an aural magic land for those who know the password. Muldaur has kept his promise to Blind Lemon. - Aaron Howard
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