Stefan Grossman's Guitar Workshop Instructional and Historical DVDs Books and Materials

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Roots of Robert Johnson

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.

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    Roots of Robert Johnson

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    It's fair to say that we wouldn't have songs like Kindhearted Woman Blues, Traveling Riverside Blues, Preaching Blues or Hellhound On My Trail without Blue Day Blues (Scrapper Blackwell), Roll and Tumble Blues (Hambone Willie Newburn), Preaching the Blues (Son House) or Devil Got my Woman (Skip James). And in Roots of Robert Johnson Tom Feldmann takes you verse-by-verse through those songs, and many others, that played such an integral role in Robert Johnson's own recordings.

    Covering a wide range of styles, techniques, keys, and tunings, this lesson will expand your range as a player and take you on the musical journal that created one of history's most lauded blues guitarists.

    A detailed tab/music booklet is included as a PDF file on the DVD. In addition the original recordings of all the tunes are included.

    Titles include: Standard Tuning: Lead Pencil Blues (Johnnie Temple), Blue Day Blues (Scrapper Blackwell), Life Saver Blues (Lonnie Johnson) Open G Tuning: Police Station Blues (Peetie Wheestraw), My Black Mama (Son House), Roll and Tumble Blues (Hambone Willie Newburn) Open D Tuning: Preaching the Blues (Son House) Crossnote Tuning: Devil Got my Woman (Skip James)

    114 minutes • Level 2/3 • Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD

    Review: Among his legion of disciples are bona fide guitar heroes – bluesmen like Muddy and Elmore, rockers such as Eric and Keith. But who were his heroes, the idol's idols? And which of their songs were irresistible to his formative ear? In other words, what are the roots of the root: The Roots of Robert Johnson? Fresh from having just taught The Guitar of Robert Johnson through a three-DVD set, Tom Feldmann now loops back to teach eight of the catalysts which helped instigate Johnson's repertoire. A most interesting roomful of characters gathers in the process, from hardened Delta bottleneckers (Son House) to urban string dazzlers (Scrapper Blackwell) to the High Sheriff of Hell himself (Peetie Wheatstraw). Lonnie Johnson – who, along with Eddie Lang and Charlie Christian, invented single-note soloing – floats 1927's Life Saver Blues. Johnnie Temple's bummed-out Lead Pencil Blues is inversely earthen in its ramrod shuffle. Since misery loves misery, Skip James goes the extra mile to seal the doom of Devil Got My Woman inside the gloom of Crossnote tuning: perfectly spooky fodder for Johnson's eventual hellhounds. Guided by Feldmann's technical expertise, this cool game of Spot the Inspiration keeps racking up everything from Terraplanes and judgment days to those shards of Walking Blues flickering within My Black Mama. Besides all the step-by-step how-to, all the original historic sides reside as bonus material. So you can hear why 1929's Roll and Tumble Blues became as ubiquitous as oxygen throughout Mississippi before you learn how to play its quintessential killer slide lick. – Dennis Rozanski/Blues Rag

    Review: It seems like only a few weeks ago that I was reviewing the DVD The Guitar of Robert Johnson, indeed, I am still working my way through those tunes that I couldn't get my fingers round before, and now with several pages still to go, I find that we get the chance to look back at those players that possibly influenced Robert Johnson, I say possibly, because there can never be much certainty about anything that relates to the works of Robert. There are seven artists here, Skip James, Hambone Willie Newbern, Lonnie Johnson, Scrapper Blackwell, Johnnie Temple, Son House and Peetie Wheatstraw, with varying styles and four different tunings, Standard, open G, Open D and Crossnote tuning. As you have come to expect from this series, there is also a fully detailed PDF file attached that gives all of the words and music and includes a tab file. Included on the DVD are all of the original recordings of the songs together with some rare footage from Skip James at a 60s Blues festival. Tom Feldman is an accomplished tutor and guitar player and has the uncanny ability to sound like a vintage recording when he sings, (I know that's an odd way of expressing it, but you have to watch it to understand exactly what I mean) So is there anything not to like? Well in short, not a lot, the only thing that I found a little annoying is that they seem to have gone over to a new flimsier plastic case with cutaways in both faces, making it likely that you can put your finger through it. Other than that, yet another superb offering from Stefan Grossman. – Dave Stone/Blues Matters!  

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