Sunday, March 14, 2010


the rooster chews tobacco

There are many voices out there I love to listen to, but I'm stopped dead with Billie Holiday, Skip James and Geoff Muldaur. Muldaur has a warble that would fit into my woodlot on an April morning, things just breaking from winter to spring. Is that a bird or peepers, I'd wonder? Then rising out of the great nowhere would come fiddles, washboards, by-crikky string instruments and there was some of the Muldaur sound...born of blues, folk and maybe best known via the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. Since the early 60s, Muldaur with varied friends, family, associates of all kinds has been playing a strong lineage of very great music: clean, sassy, dance-to-it, toe-tap-to-it, get-lost-in-it music. It's one of those beautiful things, and going at its own speed and understanding, so it falls many times under the radar of how to get successful in crass America. Much of the best in this country has been swept under the rug or out the door, so peek under your rugs everyone. Take a look around the dooryard.

With a cover art by Ed Ruscha, announcing modernity, and an inside sounding about as old but fresh as anything possibly could get, these are the Texas Sheiks. Drawing from traditional tunes and a few choice blues masterpieces. Including Muldaur, guest player Kweskin and a sterling bunch of musicians ranging from all around the Woodstock, Austin, Berkeley folk scene. This one has it. "Blues in the Bottle" is 100 years old running on the youngest legs you've ever seen.

The Texas Sheiks

On a personal note, I met Geoff Muldaur in a girls school gymnasium where I was awaiting a friend about to graduate out of high school. Muldaur was waiting like I was for the same person, in this case, his daughter Clare. He hadn't been seen in some years on the music scene and was just about ready to break back in with a new solo recording Secret Handshake. A singular masterpiece. His daughter had walked into my classroom at age 15 and said she didn't write poetry but she wrote songs. Looking at her I knew those songs were poetry so I said, bring to class those songs and bring your guitar. Really? she piped up. Really, I said. She played in my classrooms the next three years, or until I got fired, or did I walk-away in time? I'd already been there twenty years, coming in two months of the year every winter to make a very important extra payroll to see my family ways through. Worked with hundreds of joyful wonder students. It was a drive down from the back woods and I didn't even drive. Many good people gave me rides, when I wasn't driving an old clunker illegally, and I never missed a class, not one, in twenty years. Talk about folk, while listening to the blues.

Clare Muldaur

clare muldaur photo: