There was another full level three for the popular stripped back and intimate Roots Unearthed sessions. Tonight on the stage was Stefan Grossman, the master of acoustic guitar who was taught by Rev. Gary Davis as a child. As Stefan says he was a patient but demanding teacher and perhaps this is what motivates Stefan to pass on his skills to all guitar players everywhere. Being taught by Rev. Davis gave him the opportunity to learn much of his vast repertoire of secular and sacred tunes. Tonight Stefan was sharing that knowledge to a receptive and appreciative audience – this was a night in the company of an amiable acoustic picker.
Opening with an instrumental allowing the six strings of his acoustic to deliver the notes no words were needed in the hands of Stefan the music said it all. He quickly built a great rapport by sharing his people watching from the stage with the audience, he saw different types of people listening to the show tonight; it was very entertaining and was delivered with good humour as he described frustrated guitar pickers and their patient other halves!. In fact the only bit of selling tonight was hidden in a funny story about a wife mastering guitar while her frustrated husband slept thanks to you tube lessons courtesy of Stefan Grossman.
His version of Skip James’ Special Rider Blues from the early 1930’s was the start of a Stefan tour around making blues music with the explanation that this is in open G; for me it wasn’t about the chord structure, the tuning types of strings, it was early blues being played with love and attention and an authenticity that few can achieve. Then Candy Man a great take of this Rev Davis number about pimps and prostitutes; again he was really good at milking the audience especially any budding musicians; he wanted to share his love, knowledge and skills in playing Mississippi Delta Blues stripped back uncomplicated with every note as clear as a bell and every word sung or spoken with emotion.
His demonstrations of what made the early bluesmen was interesting and highlighted how different the techniques were and his reproduction of Robert Johnson was spellbinding the sound was like hearing the real thing but through modern amplification. Along with his guitar playing was a natural raconteur who just wanted to share his knowledge, enthusiasm and love of the acoustic blues he shared with the audience how to play chords and how Rev Davies told him “You should play the guitar like a piano”; and went on to demonstrating the layering of sound using left and right hand differently. He had the audience singing and clapping as he showed us all the power of the guitar and vocals to deliver a song in so many different ways and styles it was a master class and I enjoyed the renditions of Teddy Bear’s Picnic and other tunes but the highlights were the purity of songs such as T’aint Nobody’s Business; Rev Gary Davies arrangement of Cocaine Blues.
The audience love the opportunity to sing along on That’s The Glory of Love. With and encore and the guitar notes fading away it was time to leave along with a happy audience.