Geoff Muldaur's 1998 "comeback" album, Secret Handshake, was an undiluted delight, raising great hopes for this. And he certainly has the names to help him, talent like David Lindley, Wally Ingram, Dave Alvin, fiddler Richard Greene, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, and even trombonist Roswell Rudd. The songs themselves are a mix of classics like Sleepy John Estes' "Drop Down Mama," Charley Patton's "Some of These Days (I'll Be Gone)," and the standard "Prairie Lullaby," among others, along with some Muldaur originals, including his continuation of "Got to Find Blind Lemon." In other words, all the elements that made his last disc so magical are in place. So why doesn't this work in quite the same way? It's a good question, and certainly not easily answered. Maybe it's the fact that Secret Handshake was so good, the expectations for this record were impossibly high -- and make no mistake, this is an excellent disc -- too high to achieve. Or maybe the extra magic that was there before just didn't arrive here. "Wait 'Til I Put on My Robe" is a prime example. Based around Van Dyke Parks' pump organ, with guitar from Alvin and harmonies from the McGarrigles, it's an offbeat arrangement, and lovely. But it never quite gels, as if it's trying too hard. Perhaps the best cut is a laid- back version of Eric Von Schmidt's "Light Rain"; in comparison, the country & western "Prairie Lullaby" with French horn, clarinet, and bassoon seems wilfully eccentric, as does the inclusion of "Beautiful Isle of Nowhere." It's good, but falls short of greatness. Still, good by Muldaur is superb by most people.
AllMusic Review by Chris Nickson