Category Archives: Fingerstyle

Stefan Grossman, The Work & Worry Interview – PART 3

Raymond_Stefan_LakeWell, what a ride it has been.  In PART 1 of this interview we mostly talked about guitars, and in PART 2 we covered the European folk scene in the ’60s and ’70s.  We wrap up our interview with some thoughts on his work in the here and now…

W&W – Do you feel like itʼs come back around at all? In part because of the work youʼve done, so many more players are playing acoustic blues guitar, innovating…

Stefan – Some of it is great. Guy Davis… Eric Bibb, great singer, great guitar arrangements. There are other younger black players, white players that are really terrific. Iʼve contributed a certain amount, but Iʼm sure Ericʼs [Clapton] Robert Johnson records and unplugged records contributed much, much more. When The Rolling Stones do “Prodigal Son” or “You Gotta Move”, that really turns people on. One thing is for sure, if Eric Clapton does a Skip James tune, or Barbecue Bob – he did a great version of “Motherless Child” a number of years back – that doesnʼt increase Barbecue Bob sales, maybe by a half of a percentage point, but the kids are relating to a white singer singing that, not some old guy from the ʻ20s.

But you can just go on YouTube! I discovered Tom Feldmann, weʼre doing a lot of work with Tom now, I discovered him on YouTube and heʼs a great player! I must talk to Tom via the internet twenty times a day…

W&W – Tom has an upcoming instructional DVD on Son House, right?

Stefan – Thatʼs not out yet, but yes, and heʼs done Blind Willie Johnson, the gospel music of John Hurt… heʼs mostly a slide player. So weʼve got a new one coming out, Masters of Bottleneck Blues Guitar, a Fred McDowell lesson, Son House, Bukka White have been recorded, weʼre just waiting to get the TAB back. Heʼs a great player, heʼs 33! He turns me on to guys on YouTube.

W&W – Before today, I had wondered if Stefan Grossmanʼs Guitar Workshop was maybe located in your house, or if had offices, a warehouse somewhere…

Stefan – Well, historically if you wanted to run a “business”, you had to get a building, offices, warehouse, all that stuff. As a result, you have a DVD that retails for one amount, youʼre wholesaling it for another…

Our idea was that we wanted it lean and mean. So we have distributors, Mel Bay, Rounder Records, City Hall Records, in England itʼs Music Sales. So weʼll sell to Mel Bay at a certain price and theyʼll warehouse the stuff, or weʼll pay a little extra to have things warehoused at our DVD manufacturer in New York.

Raymond_Stefan_ConversationW&W – And theyʼll do the fulfillment to places like Mel Bay…

Stefan – Exactly. So we try to keep it as simple as possible, and the only thing we run out of here is the mail order. Susan [Steel] takes care of that, completely. So as a result, we had to find a house that had a large basement! Weʼve got a lot of stuff in there. Every week, Susan will place an order from the DVD manufacturer, 10 of this, 20 of this, to make sure the shelves are full here… but most of the DVDs are warehoused at the manufacturer in New York.

W&W – Would you say that, at this point, youʼre out of the traditional record business? That is to say that if you discovered a young player that you were crazy about, who had original material, that you wouldnʼt feel compelled to put out their album?

Stefan – Well it used to be that you wanted to be signed to a company, because they could send out five thousand promo records to every radio station in the country. Nowadays, my advice to anyone is to do your own CD, and sell it at gigs yourself. You wonʼt be able to send out those five thousand copies, but if the CD is a vehicle to make money and spread your music, do it yourself. I canʼt do any better.

In the old days, a label like Windham Hill was successful because they were in the northwest and the radio stations would just play the hell out of the albums! It was at the right time. Nowadays that doesnʼt happen… people donʼt buy CDs, they expect everything for free! Our CDs, weʼre able to sell them because they have PDF files on them, this added value… but now everyone can make a CD. It used to be that if you had a vinyl record or a CD, it meant that you had arrived at a certain point in your professional life as a musician. But now, a kid at two years old can make a CD! The whole business has totally changed. Now you can fill up a hall because you have a hit on YouTube, like Andy McKee. He can fill up halls all over the place. It used to be the records, now itʼs the views.

W&W – Physical media is on the wane, and youʼve now got an on-demand service. Is it as successful as youʼd hoped it would be?

Stefan – Yes! For us, it hasnʼt decreased the amount of hard-copy DVDs that we sell, but it has increased the outreach of the material. Itʻs really convenient for people overseas, you donʼt have to pay postage, duties. That has really been great. And with the on-demand, weʼve been able to do what we havenʼt been able to do with physical: people have been asking for single lessons, and now you can get single tunes, on- demand. So that has been going very well. Itʼs increasing the possibilities.

W&W – Teaching-wise, do you feel that anything is being lost with the video being the primary method these days? Not everyone can have a great teacher to study with…

Stefan – The people that do instructional videos for us do teach, the DVDs arenʼt just glorified performances. We do those on Vestapol, our Guitar Artistry DVDs. But I believe that on the instructional videos, the person really needs to be able to instruct. Initially, in the early days of DVDs, we werenʼt able to put PDFs on them. So I thought that the one thing the audio lessons had was that if I was going to teach “Stagger Lee” by Mississippi John Hurt, I could actually put a track on there of John Hurt playing it. But now the DVDs have it all. They have the lessons, the audio tracks and bonus video performances. We try to pack as much as we can into it.

W&W – Is there a lot of renumeration involved with the work youʼre producing now, the families of the old blues players?

Stefan – All of it! If Iʼm going to do a DVD on Freddie King, I contact Wanda King, we have an agreement with her… if Iʼm doing The Guitar of Freddie King, itʼs different, I would contact the publishers. But morally, I feel like you have to do that. Unfortunately, in most cases the artists are gone, so weʼre contacting the estates. The only one that was weird was Son House, after he passed away his wife just wouldnʼt open the envelopes… she thought it was devilʼs music!

W&W – My last question… in the last year, youʼve released serious instructional DVDs on Lonnie Johnson, youʼve got Ernie Hawkins doing Big Bill Broonzy, Lightninʻ Hopkins, etc… so itʼs going on 100 year that a lot of this music has been around, and thereʼs still so much to uncover. Are there particular blues players that you feel will represent the next wave of discovery?

Stefan – Well, with the blues guys, there was a fixed amount of players who were truly great, who would interest guitar players. You have blues players, like John Lee Hooker, whoʼs a great player and musician, but I wouldnʼt make an instructional DVD of his style, necessarily. It is a finite amount. The hard part is to find the teacher who has gotten it completely. Like Ernie Hawkins is great for Gary Davis, Ari Eisinger is incredible for Blind Blake, Lonnie Johnson, Blind Boy Fuller…

With someone like Reverend Gary Davis, a normal company would release one or two DVDs and thatʼs it… because they donʼt want the DVDs competing with each other. But I donʼt care! We put out a four volume set, three double-DVD sets, and Ernie probably has enough to even go into the key of F… well, that ainʼt commercial! Thatʼs not how a business should operate!

W&W – But thereʼs a historical imperative!

Stefan – Sales-wise, I just donʼt care… itʼs important. Itʼs history being made, trying to put this music onto guitar. Ari, he works very slow, but thereʼs different projects I want for him.. Tom Feldmann, we have a whole list of projects for him to do.

What Iʼm trying to do is document those styles. The music is timeless, and learning to play in these styles, with these techniques, that should live on forever.

An immense thank you to Stefan and his family for their hospitality during our visit. Please go to http://www.guitarvideos.com to see all of the wonderful offerings from Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop.

Fantastic Voyagers Festival 3… March 6 + 7 In Pittsburgh

Though a couple of acts are still being confirmed, Pittsburgh’s Mike Tamburo has announced the lineup for the third installment of his Fantastic Voyagers Festival, to be held this year at Morning Glory Coffeehouse on March 6 and 7. The musicians represent several styles, genres and techniques, and this years fest will see its participants exploring the quieter side of their repertoires.

The confirmed list (not necessarily in order of appearance) :

Keenan Lawler (Louisville)
Nick Schillace (Detroit)
Eric Carbonara (Philly)
Enumclaw (Philly)
Chris Forsyth (Philly)
Aaron Lennox (West Virginia)
Joel Peterson (Detroit)
Mike Tamburo and pals (Pittsburgh)
Sundog Peacehouse (Pittsburgh)
Tusk Lord (Pittsburgh)
Hunted Creatures (Pittsburgh)
Pairdown (Pittsburgh)
Waterfinder (Pittsburgh)
Melissa St. Pierre (Pittsburgh)
Dire Wolves (Pittsburgh)
Chris Niels (Pittsburgh)
Great Blue Heron (Pittsburgh)
Darren Myers (Pittsburgh)

Ben Reynolds November Tour

Ben_Reynolds_BW
Scottish guitarist Ben Reynolds is getting ready to embark on a quick US tour. We reviewed his Tompkins Square debut How Day Earnt Its Night not too long ago, and have since been spinning his Strange Attractors album Two Wings, which is equally good! We’re going to try to take some video at the Pittsburgh performance, so keep an eye out for that… and visit Reynolds’ Myspace page for updates on the TBA dates.

11/10 – Zebulon w/ Eric Carbonara, Mike Wexler, David Copenhafer
258 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn NY

11/11 – The Outpost w/ Eric Carbonara, Concord Ballet Orchestra Players, Mike Tamburo
186 1/2 Hampshire St, Cambridge MA

11/12 – The Appohadion w/ Mike Tamburo, Tom Kovacevic, Prisma
107 Hanover St, Portland ME

11/13 – The Spotty Dog w/ Mike Tamburo, Alex Turnquist
440 Warren St, Hudson NY

11/14 – TBA w/ Mike Tamburo
Providence, RI

11/15 – BAR w/ Mike Tamburo
254 Crown St, New Haven CT

11/16 – Issue Project Room w/ Mike Tamburo
At The Old American Can Factory, 232 3rd Street, 3rd Floor, Brooklyn NY

11/17 – House show w/ Mike Tamburo, Eric Carbonara
4500 kingsessing Ave, Philadelphia PA

11/18 – Schlow Memorial Library w/ Mike Tamburo + others TBA
211 S. Allen St, State College PA

11/19 – Morning Glory Coffeehouse w/ Mike Tamburo
1806 Chislet St, Pittsburgh PA

11/20 – TBA w/ Mike Tamburo, Nick Schillace
Detroit MI

11/21 – Skylab w/ Mike Tamburo
57 E Gay St, Columbus OH

11/22 – Hop Hop w/ Mike Tamburo, Keenan Lawler
800 N. Limestone St, Lexington, KY

11/23 – Little Hamilton w/ Mike Tamburo, Keenan Lawler, The Paper Hats
1318 Little Hamilton Ave, Nashville TN

11/24 – Swan Dive w/ Mike Tamburo, Keenan Lawler, Nathan Salsburg
921 Swan St, Louisville KY

11/25 – Heaven Gallery w/ Mike Tamburo
1550 N. Milwaukee Ave, 2nd Floor, Chicago IL

Review : Glenn Jones “Barbecue Bob in Fishtown” LP/CD (Strange Attractors Audio House, 2009)

Glenn_Jones_Barbecue_Coverby Raymond Morin

In the avant-rock band Cul de Sac, guitarist Glenn Jones and his bandmates combine fingerstyle electric guitar, krautrock rhythms and harsh electronics, creating a challenging, textured sound that defies categorization. In 1997, the group famously collaborated with acoustic guitar icon John Fahey and released the album The Epiphany of Glenn Jones. Now, over a decade later, comes the third solo outing from Jones, and on Barbecue Bob in Fishtown the spirit of John Fahey and his American Primitive approach is alive and well.

Though his band is known for their experimental leanings, Glenn Jones the solo artist is considered something of a traditionalist, and the Barbecue Bob… package is very much presented in the grand tradition of instrumental acoustic guitar collections of years past. From the light-hearted cover image and the eloquent, self-penned liner notes to the tuning references and instrument notes for each song, the art direction has a classic feel… the album could pass as an artifact from any point in the last 40 years. When the included booklet is flipped over and reversed, we’re treated to a photo-diary of Jones paying a visit to Belmont Nails, for what appears to be an application of fresh acrylics. All of this is the kind of stuff that guitar geeks eat up, myself included!

Well, as everyone knows, the best compliment to great packaging is great music (to listen to while staring at the great packaging, of course!) and on Barbecue Bob in Fishtown, Jones delivers some fine picking indeed. The album kicks off with the upbeat alternating bass of the title track, the bends and rolls evoking both Fahey and some of the modern purveyors of his style, such as Nick Schillace and Jack Rose. Jones’ style immediately stands apart from those players in its more relaxed attack, never quite approaching the tidiness of Schillace or the determined physicality of Rose. I find the easy, slightly ragged character of Jones’ picking to be very charming, particularly on “Barbecue Bob…”, “Dead Reckoning” and album closer “A Geranium For Mano-a-Mano”.


Glenn Jones – “A Geranium For Mano-a-Mano”

There are two brief banjo pieces on the album, and both are compelling listens. Mood and tempo-wise, “Keep It A Hundred Years” and “A Lark In Earnest” are very similar, a possible product of Jones’ relative newness to the instrument… but in spite of this, his knack for composition wins out, and the banjo songs stand up as some of the most melodically driven on the album. “Keep It…” contains some unexpected chord changes, keeping it interesting and unpredictable, while “Lark…” benefits from a simple, memorable melodic theme and some very nice finger-rolls.

Glenn Jones in action

Glenn Jones in action

“1337 Shattuck Avenue, Apartment D”, Jones’ tribute to Robbie Basho, is one of the most emotive tracks on the disc, and also its longest. In the liner notes, Jones explains that this loosely structured composition was one of many takes, and was chosen for its “uncertain” feel. There is definitely a palpable degree of uncertainty in the playing, with many of the notes fretting out around the 4 1/2-minute mark as Jones begins descending into dark, dissonant territory. Still, the emotional thread that runs through the song, coupled with the variety of the sections, keeps the listener wholly invested.

My favorite song on the album is “For Wendy, In Her Girlish Days”. This selection contains some of Jones’ most delicate and beautiful playing, and its primary theme is a nice hybrid of Leo Kottke-style alternating bass and chord voicings, supporting a vaguely British-tinged melodic approach.


Glenn Jones – “For Wenday In Her Girlish Days”

Glenn Jones is something of a staple in the current solo acoustic guitar movement, and Barbecue Bob in Fishtown makes a great case for why that is. Jones’ playing shows him to be a guitarist with a distinctive touch, an experienced player with a pleasing affection for traditional picking as well as a flare for varied and innovative composition.

Buy the LP or CD from Strange Attractors
Buy the LP or CD from Insound
Glenn Jones’ website
Glenn Jones’ on Myspace

Raymond Morin / Pairdown September Tour Dates

J_Rose_Flier_93009

Work & Worry’s own Raymond Morin will be going out on the road at the end of September, touring in support of this year’s “Holykyle” LP by Pairdown. He’ll be playing songs from Pairdown, his solo work as The Instances, some new instrumentals and a few chestnuts from the British folk and blues revival. Morin will be joined by Micah Blue Smaldone on a couple of dates, as well as old friends Shrinking Islands and Quoins.

9/25 – Skylight 307 (w/ Shrinking Islands, Heirloom) 307 Market St (upstairs), Philadelphia PA… 7PM
9/26 – 421 Bigelow Hollow Rd (house show w/ old friends! Invite only!) Eastford, CT… 8PM
9/27 – The Apohadion (w/ Micah Blue Smaldone, Listo) 107 Hanover St, Portland ME… 8PM
9/28 – Zuzu (w/ Micah Blue Smaldone, Quoins) 474 Mass Ave, Cambridge MA… 9PM
9/29 – Pete’s Candy Store (w/ St. Cloud, Underscore Orkestra, Tori Sparks) 709 Lorimer, Brooklyn NYC… 8PM
9/30 – Morning Glory Coffee (Pairdown duo, w/ Jack Rose) 1806 Chislett St, Pittsburgh PA… 7:30PM

For more info or directions, please email sortofrecords at gmail dot com.

Check out Pairdown on Myspace
Buy Pairdown’s LP from Sort Of Records

Jack Rose September Tour Dates

Jack Rose, one of my favorite modern fingerpickers, is getting ready to play a nice array of shows, quite possibly in your area. If you’ve seen Jack play before, you know that few can play American Primitive, raga and drone on the guitar the way he can. If you’ve never seen him, your chance is coming up quick!

Jack has a new record out, a collaboration with The Black Twigs, on VHF Records. Follow this link for more info and sound samples.

Dates from the Front Porch Productions site, venue links by W&W :

9/4 – Night Light (with The Black Twigs), Chapel Hill NC
9/5 – Venue TBA (with The Black Twigs – presented by Harvest Records), Asheville NC
9/6 – The Pilot Light, Knoxville TN
9/8 – Eyedrum, Atlanta GA
9/9 – Farm 255, Athens GA
9/11 – New College, Sarasota FL
9/13 – Venue TBA, Orlando FL
9/15 – The Engine Room (Co-presented by WVFS), Tallahassee FL
9/16 – Strong Stead, Pensacola FL
9/17 – Bottletree, Birmingham AL
9/18 – Venue TBA (presented by MiniCine), Shreveport LA
9/19 – The Conservatory, Oklahoma City OK
9/20 – Replay Lounge, Lawrence KS
9/22 – The Oriental Theater, Denver CO
9/23 – Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha NE
9/24 – The Hideout (with David Daniell and Douglas McCombs), Chicago IL
9/25 – Open Lot, St. Louis MO
9/26 – The Black Sparrow, Lafayette IN
9/27 – Bear’s Place, Bloomington IN
9/28 – The Swan Dive, Louisville KY
9/29 – Natasha’s (presented by WRFL), Lexington KY
9/30 – Morning Glory Coffeehouse (with Pairdown, presented by Work & Worry), Pittsburgh PA

Buy Jack Rose music from Insound