One simply cannot talk about people of importance to this genre without tipping the hat to the most masterful musician, teacher, musicologist, producer, folklorist and preservationist of the traditional blues. By now, Stefan Grossman is a venerated, iconoclastic and respected acoustic blues figure of mega-proportions. He came out of the vibrant Greenwich Village, New York, 1960s scene around Washington Square, where so many American folk and blues musicians launched their careers. His friend and occasional collaborator, Steve Katz, formerly of the Even Dozen Jug Band, the Blues Project and Blood, Sweat & Tears, once half jokingly told this writer: “There we were, all these New York Jews playing the black blues.” Indeed, the blues had a strong influence on young New Yorkers during the folk revival. These musicians, Stefan Grossman, Happy & Artie Traum, Danny Kalb, and many others, in turn had a powerful influence on the acceptance of the blues by the American baby boomer generation at large; and, they significantly helped to launch the folk, roots & blues revival, thereby reinvigorating the careers of many original blues musicians whose careers had waned.
Many people know Stefan Grossman as the paramount teacher and entrepreneur in what has become the world’s largest “blues school”, Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop. He is one of the most skilled guitarists in the genre, having been a student of Rev. Gary Davis in New York City. He also picked up lessons directly from Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Skip James, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and others.
"The material is a mix of traditional and original, the playing superb. Grossman and Renbourn combine their talents and mix of styles here to produce appealing instrumental music of rare beauty and taste." – AllMusic.com
On their duet records, John Renbourn and Stefan Grossman meet on the common turf of American blues and Celtic fiddle tunes and airs. Under The Volcano is collection of seven duets, including an extended four-part work for which the album is named, and one solo by each of the players, the album has what has come to be the characteristic sound of the duo. Reflecting what Stefan quite accurately describes as "an interweaving of styles," it is quite difficult, and somewhat pointless, to tell which of the two is playing the lead in most parts of the album.
The original compositions are at once down-home and high-flown, brimming with contrapuntal funkiness, and the music manages to sound both loose and precise. Grossman and Renbourn contribute equally to the composition and arrangement of the traditional material. They aren't uptight about overdubbing or using the occasional electric guitar texture. But the lingering impression is one of crisp, snapping strings and air being moved by wooden-boxed guitars.
Track Listing: (click on tracks for mp3 sound samples)
1. Idaho Potato
a) Resurrection of Blind Joe Death
b) Four for the Roses
c) Montagu's Pact
d) Rights of Man
5. Swedish Jig
6. Water Gypsy
(All tunes except for "Bonaparte's Retreat" have been transcribed and included in a pdf tab/music booklet on the CD)