Folklorist, ethnomusicologist and musician Alan Lomax once said, "You can't kill off a culture until you kill the last person who carries it." That statement resonates deep within Tom Feldmann as for nearly half his life he has carried on the traditions of the acoustic country blues and gospel music recorded in the 1920's and 30's.
Minnesota native Tom Feldmann taught himself to play guitar at age 17 after hearing the recordings of the pioneers of acoustic country blues and states, "Mississippi John Hurt taught me to pick, Fred McDowell taught me to play slide and the mighty Son House taught me to sing." His debut solo album was released in 1999 and Tom has since spent the years writing, touring and recording his own original gospel compositions as well as carrying on the tradition of solo acoustic country blues.
Over the last few years, Tom has shifted the focus of his attention from his own writing to the music of the many legendary bluesmen that inspired him to pick up the guitar all those years ago. This journey has resulted in a series of CD's, starting with Tribute (2010) and now continues with Lone Wolf Blues (2012). It also resulted in a string of instructional DVD's for Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop that have received rave reviews and distribution around the world.
Who hasn't been influenced by Mississippi Fred McDowell? Imitated by just about everyone that has picked up a slide, his impact has spread the world over. With so many trying to figure out exactly how he played, we are so fortunate to have a lesson like this one where we get to learn from the man himself. The footage of Fred McDowell seen in this lesson is a treasure because it's as if it was filmed with us, the students of McDowell's style, in mind. With clear shots of his left and right hands, it's like your own private lesson with the master himself.
DISC ONE is devoted to footage of Fred McDowell performing many of his classic tunes in Open E tuning. After each performance, Tom Feldmann breaks down Fred's techniques and then goes to the split screen, playing the song slowly as you play along.
DISC TWO is devoted to the recordings of McDowell in Open A tuning. Tom performs this time around as none of the available footage has McDowell performing in Open A.
A detailed tab/music booklet is included as a PDF file on each DVD. In addition the original recordings of all the tunes in lesson two are included. On Disc Two there is 51 minute interview with Tom Feldmann where he talks about his influences as well as performing a wide variety of tunes.
Titles Include: OPEN E TUNING: When I Lay My Burden Down, Keep Your Lamp Trimmed
And Burning, John Henry, Break 'Em On Down, Louise, Mojo Hand, I Heard Somebody Call OPEN A TUNING: Write Me A Few Lines, Been Drinking Out of A Hollow Log, Fred's Worried Life Blues, The Train I Ride, Kokomo Blues
220 minutes • Level 2/3 • Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD
Review: No matter how famous McDowell's assertions of “I do not play no rock'n'roll, y'all” were, that talkative bottleneck ratted Fred out otherwise. When dropped onto guitar strings, blowing up the push-pull rhythm of elastic groovers like “Write Me A Few Lines”, “John Henry” and their kingpin in “Shake 'Em On Down,” that little glass tube dilates pupils and gets pulses racing, leaving you off far higher than where you first got on. Those aren't physiological hallmarks of the typical “straight 'n' natchel blues.” But such is Fred's type of rockin'. And with it, he was a one-man house party, a north Mississippi slide hypnotist in the grandest definition. So whether holy rolling “When I Lay My Burden Down” or even slide-lessly chugging on “The Train I Ride,” his repertoire knows how to have a good time. Except when wallowing in the depths of despair (“Been Drinking Out Of A Hollow Log” even rubs salt into the wound with its dastardly lowdown lick). Now over the course of two instructional DVDs, the inner workings of The Guitar Of Fred McDowell get exposed by disciple Tom Feldmann. Finally, step-by-step proof that “Shake 'Em” (a.k.a. “Break 'Em”) and 11 other songs can, indeed, be played by mortals. And Feldmann does a fantastic job teaching Fred's moves. Vintage film also lets some of Fred's moves get taught by Fred, the downhome dude with the pencil thin mustache, pomade-slicked hair, string tie, curvaceous electric guitar and grooves that everyone from R.L. Burnside to the Rolling Stones to the North Mississippi All-Stars and now you - just got to have. – Bluesrag/Dennis Rozanski
Review: Over the past ten years plus Tom Feldmann's name has become synonymous with the slide guitar style of country blues and gospel music of the 1920's-1940's. His has honed his skill and developed chops that have put him in the top tier of performers and instructors. His pedigree includes an affiliation with Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshops, and Mel Bay has produced numerous instructional DVDs of such legends as Blind Willie Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt and just about everyone in between. He has released eight CDs since 1999 while touring, six on his own Magnolia Recording Company label and two early CDs for Maple Island Records. In short, Feldmann has not only become an authority on Country Blues but is also well on his way to becoming a national treasure and a portal to the past. It is no surprise that his latest instructional DVD, “The Guitar of Fred McDowell” lives up to all that has come before and is a treasure trove of instruction and insight into the blues and the music of Fred McDowell. This two DVD set offers film footage of McDowell playing seven tunes in Open E (Disc 1) and five in open A tuning (Disc 2). The format of instruction for each tune begins with a film performance of McDowell on electric guitar from later in his career. This of course helps keep instruction rooted to McDowell's actual performance instead of focusing on an interpretation of his playing. Feldmann follows each performance with a discussion of the intricacies of technique of each specific tunes, followed by a split screen that isolates the left and right hand simultaneously throughout his own playing of the same tune at a very moderate tempo to allow the student to adequately take in the techniques presented. Feldmann's easygoing demeanor and clear description of technique makes his instruction accessible for any level player. Feldman also gets into the technical aspects of McDowell's technique and various methods of approaching guitar set-up from string gauges, saddle dimensions and the use of an unwound third string for E Tuning -- all of which speak to Feldmann's knowledge and the quality of his instruction. Bonus materials include a detailed tab of each song in the form of two PDF booklets as well as almost an hour of interview footage of Feldmann who delves into his influences, experiences, technique and instruments. Feldman performs a handful of additional tunes to augment these segments. Total running time of both DVDs is 220 minutes. – Minor 7th