"Kids! I never see kids," said singer-songwriter Geoff Muldaur, clearly amused by the large turnout for his Kennedy Center Millennium Stage performance Tuesday night. The free concert apparently coincided with the arrival of tour-bus loads of teenagers who hadn't the faintest idea of what to expect from the avuncular musician. "Here comes Banjo Bob," giggled one kid as Muldaur walked onstage.
Sprinkled throughout the crowd, however, were folks old enough to appreciate Muldaur's role in the '60s folk revival and to recall the great recordings he and ex-wife Maria Muldaur made as members of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. After a long hiatus, Muldaur recently began touring again, championing the music of his youth in a weathered voice that sometimes tapers off into a soft, falsetto-pitched hum. Few of his peers boast a voice more distinctive or soulful.
As he moved through a colorful collection of tunes associated with (or saluting) Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Vera Hall, Muldaur also revealed a gift for neatly accenting his acoustic guitar arrangements with sliding double stops, muted jazz chords and sparkling harmonics.
He plucked out an unvarnished banjo tribute to Dock Boggs, too, and tossed in a banjo joke for good measure: How can you tell when a stage is perfectly level? Muldaur asked. "The banjo player drools out of both sides of his mouth." For every fan who laughed, there must have been 10 kids who appeared profoundly puzzled.
-- Mike Joyce