Whilst holidaying on the beautiful Isle of Anglesey ,I was delighted to learn that my stay was to coincide with a gig by blues legend Geoff Muldaur . As an unexpected bonus , the support slot to Geoff was to be by my long-time friend , Mersey bluesman , Raphael Callaghan ,who has relocated to North Wales.
On a lovely sunny ,summer’s evening my wife and I travelled the short distance from our holiday cottage to historic Menai Bridge [ or Porthaethwy , as it is known to Welsh speakers].
Raphael opened the evening with a short, but very well-received,set of his “homemade blues” , beginning with the opening two songs from his most recent album “Said And Done” [which I reviewed in these pages in October 2016]. These two excellent songs, “Keep Calm And Carry On” and “Living Blues” were followed by a couple of new compositions, the catchy “My Old Denim” and a gorgeous a cappella gospel number “Time To Leave”. Another highlight was Raphael’s superb rendition of Charley Patton’s 1934 classic “Poor Me”, on which his weeping slide guitar echoed the profound sadness of the lyrics. Great to see and hear Raphael play again.
To call Geoff Muldaur a legend of the blues is certainly no exaggeration. His CV includes The Jim Kweskin Jug Band and Paul Butterfield’s Better Days , as well as a duo with Maria Muldaur [ of “Midnight at the Oasis” fame]. He has also performed duets with Bonnie Raitt ,who calls Geoff “one of my favourite singers”.
Tonight put on a fabulous show , combining great singing and dexterous guitar playing ,with fascinating stories about legendary bluesmen including Muddy Waters, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Willie Johnson and Sleepy John Estes.
Over two sets Geoff gave a mesmerising performance , including a superb rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Boots of Spanish Leather” [ “a song I thought I’d never do”].
Other highlights included a wonderfully evocative version [on banjo] of Doc Boggs’ “Mistreated Mama” which sounded as though it had come straight off an old ’78 record. We were treated to a majestically soulful performance of Blind Willie Johnson’s gospel number “Trouble Soon Be over” as well as Geoff’s “travelling mate” Bobby Charles’ charming song about the Woodstock Folk Scene “Small Town Talk” , which was co-written with Rick Danko of The Band. Bobby Charles is best known for penning such classics as “See You Later Alligator” and “Walking To New Orleans”.
Geoff visited [twice] the repertoire of 1930’s Alabama folk singer Vera Hall ,with an extraordinary version of “Wild Ox Moan” and , on banjo, “Boll Weevil” ,which was not the Leadbelly song of the same name.
A light-hearted moment came when Geoff sang Mississippi John Hurt’s “Chicken”,which turned out to be a spelling song for children.
Geoff was hugely influenced by New Orleans funeral music and closed his show with the gospel hymn “Some Sweet Day” ,with Johnny Fewings accompanying him on banjo.
Naturally, after such an enthralling performance , the crowd demanded an encore and Geoff duly obliged with another Bobby Charles song “Tennessee Blues”.
Geoff Muldaur was , to paraphrase the title of his 1975 album, Having A Wonderful Time, as he told the told the appreciative Welsh crowd “maybe it’s because my mother’s name was Jones that I feel so good here”.
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