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

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Guitar of Blind Willie 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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    Guitar of Blind Willie Johnson

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    "Blind Willie Johnson had great dexterity. He could play all of these sparking little melody lines. There’s fabulous syncopation. He’d keep his thumb going real strong.... I never could figure out how in the world he got such a busy sound playing so little.... Of course, I’ve tried all my life - worked very hard and every day of my life, practically - to play in that style... He’s so good - I mean, he’s just so good! Beyond a guitar player. I think the guy is one of these interplanetary world musicians, the kind of person they talk about in that Nada Brahma book, where the world is sound and everything is resonating." – Ry Cooder

    Blind Willie Johnson recorded thirty songs from 1927-1930 and of those thirty he used a slide on only twelve. There has been much debate surrounding how he played and what he played with, but regardless of "how" or "what" those twelve songs stand as some of the best slide guitar ever recorded.

    In this lesson Tom Feldmann breaks down the complexities of eight of Johnson’s classics. You will see how Johnson created his “as you feel” bass lines by utilizing alternating, monotonic and “brushing” bass techniques. Of course, the defining element of Johnson’s songs was his unearthly slide playing which Tom shows in detail teaching you Johnson’s strike and slides, pull-offs and vibrato.

    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 includeBye And Bye I’m Goin’ To See The King, You’re Gonna Need Somebody On Your Bond, Dark Was The Night Cold Was The Ground, God Don’t Never Change, Lord I Just Cant Keep From Crying, Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning, I Know His Blood Can Make Me Whole and Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed

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

    Review: Not only was Blind Willie Johnson saddled with sightlessness. The street corner evangelist was also afflicted with a buzz saw for a voice and the inability to err on bottleneck guitar. From 1927 through 1930, he waxed 30 miracles at 78 rpm speed. Twelve of those employed use of that heavenly slide; all of them were brought down from the mountaintop. Everyone from Dylan and Beck to The White Stripes has vouched for that by performance. Now you can actively tap the intensity within The Guitar Of Blind Willie Johnson, too. Bottleneck whiz Tom Feldmann transfers the power over step-by step, lick-by-lightning-bolt-lick.

    Each of the eight songs dissected on his instructional DVD sports its own personality; from the Glory-bound “Bye And Bye I'm Goin' To See The King” to the speedy genius of “Jesus Make Up My Dying Bed.” You'll learn how to perform the miracle of syncopating like a madman while getting an ordinary bottleneck to pray right along with “God Don't Never Change.” And how to truly tingle spines over “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground.” It's ghostly moan'n'drone is a touch of the oblivion from out of this world. (Figuratively, as well as literally, since a copy is currently rocketing through outer space aboard the Voyager's time capsule.) Also included are Johnson's original audio recordings, the lyrics, and a video topper of Mississippi Fred McDowell gliding along “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed And Burning.”  Sorry - but tips on achieving Johnson's gargled-razor vocals are not included. – Dennis Rozanski/Blues Rag

    Video Sample

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