In this double DVD lesson, Ernie Hawkins teaches in detail nine of Rev. Gary Davis’s best known blues arrangements. These songs have become well known through the playing of Bob Dylan (Baby, Let Me Lay It On You), Jackson Browne (Cocaine Blues), Hot Tuna (Hesitation Blues) John Renbourn, Stefan Grossman, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Hot Tuna and a host of other musicians (Candyman).
Rev. Davis approached playing the blues in several different styles. Each had unique characteristics and ranged from what he called “old fashion picking” to complex playing that explored and extended the blues tradition on the fingerboard.
Each arrangement is broken down phrase by phrase and then played slowly on a split screen. You can easily follow the playing with the tab/music included as a PDF file on each DVD. As a bonus we have included various audio performances of Rev. Davis playing each song.
Disc One: Spoonful, Cocaine Blues, Delia, Baby Let Me Lay It On You and Candyman
Disc Two: Hesitation Blues, Penitentiary Blues, Florida Blues and Can’t Be Satisfied
176 minutes • Level 3 • Detailed tab/music PDF file on the DVD
Review: Although Rev Davis died in 1972, his influence is still a powerful force in the world of acoustic blues and gospel guitar. Known in his early days as Blind Gary Davis, he taught himself to play harmonica, banjo, and guitar, performing for parties and picnics In his hometown area before moving to Durham, North Carolina, where he played blues on street comers. In the early 1930s he turned to religious music and was ordained as a Baptist minister in 1933.
Ernest Leroy Hawkins was born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1947. He plays guitar, mandolin and banjo. Ernie was already playing blues as a teenager when, according to his bio, he heard a fellow passing through town playing Gary Davis's “Let Us Get Together”. He was hooked then and forever on country blues and ragtime guitar ... and players like Davis, Blind Willie McTell, Blind Blake, Willie Johnson, Skip James, John Hurt and Leadbelly. Hawkins went to New York and received instruction from Rev Davis himself. Stories abound that Rev Davis gave lessons for $5, which could sometimes last all day and include dinner.
Rev. Davis was said by some of his students to have been a pretty hard taskmaster to them; insisting that there was only one correct way of playing a given tune and with a musical knowledge seemingly beyond many of his contemporaries. Guitarist Roly Brown says of one of his lessons from Davis, " ... when I had trouble following him on the downward chord sequence in 'Slow Drag', he finally, exasperated, said *C, Bb6, F with an A in the bass, and Ab!"
He approached playing the blues in several different styles. Each had unique characteristics and ranged from what he called old fashion picking to a complex style that explored and extended the blues tradition on the fingerboard. Amazingly Davis did his (right-hand) thing using only thumb and forefinger with picks; the thumbpick high on the digit over the knuckle. The two digit approach may explain why despite his phenomenal skills he was in the majority of his recordings never such a “clean” picker as, for example, Blind Blake.
In these instruction DVDs, Ernie Hawkins teaches in detail nine of Rev. Davis's best-known blues arrangements. These songs have become well known through the playing of Bob Dylan (“Baby, Let Me Lay It On You”), Jackson Browne (“Cocaine Blues”), Hot Tuna (“Hesitation Blues”), and John Renbourn, Stefan Grossman, Ramblin' Jack Elliot and a host of other musicians (“Candyman”).
On each DVD, the arrangements are broken down, phrase by phrase, and then played slowly on a split screen. Ernie Hawkins is a fine player and a good teacher. With the split screen technique one can easily follow the playing and play along yourself too. The sound on the DVD is excellent and the camera placement is ideal. The DVDs come with complete tab/music booklets. Both DVDs have, as a bonus, various audio performances of Rev. Davis playing each song.
If you are already a reasonably competent player, and want to study the Davis style this is strongly recommended. Not for beginners though, you do need to know a few chords and some common techniques like, bending strings, hammering-on and pulling-off and so on. – B&R Magazine/Ian McKenzie