Geoff Muldaur’s The Secret Handshake & Password

11th June 2016

Title: The Secret Handshake & Password

Label: Floating World

Muldaur is one of those familiar names that seems to be everywhere and, in fact, he’s been around multiple scenes in his time: folk, blues and folk-rock for example. He was the centre of the famed Jim Kweskin Jug Band in the early 60s and would go on to marry band member Maria Muldaur as the pair schmoozed with the rock and folk royalty of Bob Dylan, the Band and so on.

Muldaur would eventually move onto scoring soundtracks for films, notably Terry Gilliam’s Brazil.

This particular album is a 2CD package that includes two albums. The Secret Handshake is a 1998 release that takes on a batch of his favourite old country-blues tunes and adds a couple of atmospheric originals to the mix as well. Even with some of the covers, Muldaur puts his own fingerprints all over them. In fact, each cover is almost transformed: now that’s interpretation! Recorded over the course of a year in a variety of studios across the USA, Muldaur included a host of skilled musicians including Hal Ketchum, Bill Rich, Turner Stephen Bruton and Sean Hopper along with Lenny Picket and David Grisham over songs such as The Wild Ox Moan, This World Is Not My Home and Alberta.

For 2000’s Password, Muldaur was at it again, inviting top people to back his work including Kate and Anna McGarrigle and featuring some classic ditties such as Sleepy John Estes’ Drop Down Mama and Charley Patton’s Some of These Days (I’ll Be Gone).

There’s plenty to like on this album but the overall feeling of the LP is that it doesn’t quite get into the groove. Something doesn’t fit. It’s good, but the expectation, especially after the release of The Secret Handshake was possibly too high for this one ever to hit the same heights.