Country Blues Guitar

  • 2008
  • Country Blues Guitar
  • R. Block & S. Grossman
  • S. G.'s Guitar Workshop


This “new” release by Stefan Grossman, the widely known and respected maven and teacher of country blues guitar technique, is actually a re-release of the 1967 (?1964) vinyl album, “How to Play Blues Guitar,” with 16 additional tracks added to the original 16. (The CD booklet cover alleges that the vinyl album was released in 1964 and that the CD contains tracks from 1963-1971, but Grossman’s liner notes locate the vinyl release in 1967 and the recordings from 1966-1967, with the exception of 2 tracks featuring Son House that were made in 1971.)

Included also on the CD is the notated “How to Play Blues Guitar” in Adobe Acrobat format. For musicologist students of blues history, and aspiring players of country blues, this is a useful addition.

For those of us who love the blues, a few caveats about the music itself. Block was 16 and 17 years old when these cuts were recorded. Her dextrous fretwork was already impressive, but her voice was thin, nothing like the deep, powerful, smoky voice which has characterized her recordings for the last 20 years and made aficionados of many of us. Grossman’s voice…well, he sings on only 1 song on the CD, which reveals that he is able honestly to appraise the limited appeal of his singing. His picking, as expected, is uniformly laudable, and he and Block sound great when playing together.

Some other reservations: many of the songs are short, less than 2 minutes; even so, styles and tempos vary little and the album becomes tedious for those who simply want to listen rather than to learn to play guitar. Worse, those blues luminaries who composed and/or made famous many of these familiar songs are uncredited in the notes. Much as I appreciate Block and Grossman’s efforts, if I am really interested in blues I want to be able to go back and listen to the Fred McDowell or Charley Patton originals, and this CD fails to show me the way.

Speaking of originals, the 2 tracks featuring Son House on vocals and Grossman on guitar are high points, and go a long way toward explaining why Block and Grossman fell in love with the blues.

[This review originally appeared on the BluesWax Web site.]