The Secret Handshake/American Music: Blues and Gospel
The ’60s folk legend returns with a collection of mostly traditional blues and gospel songs. Starting with the old Vera Hall Ward standard “Wild Ox Moan,” and ending with the old New Orleans funeral closer, “Just a Little While to Stay Here,” this recording gives us a little taste of some of the great Blues and Gospel songwriters of this century. Albert Brumley, who authored such classics as “I’ll Fly Away” and “Turn Your Radio On,” as well as the perennial Bluegrass standard, “Rank Strangers,” is represented here with an updated version of his “The World is Not My Home.” Leadbelly, “Sleepy John” Estes, and Walter Davis are also paid tribute to here, with covers of “Alberta,” “Someday Baby,” and “I Can’t See Your Face,” respectively.
This record does give a fairly broad view of some of the influences that came to bear on American music, and the covers are about as true to the originals as you would expect a Cambridge folkie to get. Many times the definitive versions of songs such as these were done long ago, and it’s hard to bring anything new and worthwhile to the interpretation. There are a few exceptions here. “Someday Baby” is one.
“Chevrolet” gathers some steam, but it could’ve been better without the weird inclusion of a new-age whistle part. This recording overall is very pleasant and the musicianship is top-notch, however, recordings such as this just serve to make me want to pull out the originals. It’s all a matter of taste, but I generally prefer a little rougher edge to the blues than this. Geoff does weigh in with two decent originals, “Got To Find Blind Lemon” and “I Believe I’ll Go Back Home.” Geoff also produced and arranged the entire recording. It’s probably a good addition to your collection if you are already a Muldaur fan, new to the blues, or if you just like “Blues Light.” Hightone Records, 220 4th St. #101, Oakland, CA 94607; http://www.hightone.com