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John Renbourn & Stefan Grossman in Concert - 2 CDs + DVD Set [DVD]  

John Renbourn & Stefan Grossman in Concert - 2 CDs + DVD Set [DVD]

Renbourn, who's best known for his Pentangle association and fine solo albums, has played medieval, early classical, traditional, blues, regional English folk and contemporary jazz compositions. The obstreperous Grossman, who's also cut a pile of solo albums, has played classic and contemporary ragtime, delta blues, boogie, and regional American folk compositions, among others. Yet the performers and last Tuesday night's capacity crowd at the Other End shared a single-mindedness that makes one music of all this eclecticism: a passion for the acoustic guitar and its infinite expressive possibilities. The evening was not only one of the most musically exhilarating in my experience, but one of the most educational as well a relaxed class on styles and technique and a distillation of British and American sensibilities.
John Renbourn performed solo opening with several traditional tunes from the British Isles. Renbourn looks the part like Robin Hood's Littlejohn perhaps: a big-boned frame; broad ruddy cheeks; short, curling fair hair and beard; small, amused blue eyes. When he sings about Glasgow town and fair maids, we followers of traditional music believe him largely because of the songs simple beauty, but we also, I think, harbor a bad case of merrie olde anglophilia. Renbourn doesn't sigh wistfully for a lost world simultaneously bawdy and innocent he recreates that world. He also played some instrumentals. Whether he's doing an alehouse blues or a 16th-century Italian dance, Renbourn's guitar style is characteristically delicate and controlled. He took a swig on his beer bottle and bent over Booker T. Jones's Sweet Potato, which opens with a taut bluesy little riff and then builds almost in spite of itself. Renbourn couldn't hold it in check, and the piece burst open at the seams as he leaned into it, the chords and fingerings hurtling faster and faster. Finally the tune receded into the neat, unassuming opening tiff, and ended. "You're amazing, John," somebody blurted out. The audience laughed and applauded, agreeing.

Enter Grossman, sporting a bright colored ukulele shirt and an uncompromising New Yawk accent ... Grossman is a wild, funny carny man. He banged and pulled at his bass strings, occasionally flatpicked, and sang-talked old blues and rags. Both guitarists commanded immediate respect. But while the audience was awed by the modest Renbourn's music-sculpting, they stamped and rebel-yelled for Grossman, who seemed antsy just to spit the songs out, playing strident delta blues and Reverend Davis ragtime like nobody's Aunt Sally. Grossman's brand of Americanism is as mythic as the world of traditional British balladry: red hot dogs and red hot mamas, a restless, cheerful braggadocio.

They played together for a final set that included the loopiest rendition of Candy Man I've ever heard, and a few numbers from their elegant new hybrid, Stefan Grossman & John Renbourn CD (SGGW119). The album is all instrumental, all except for a Mingus composition original, and a good deal more studied and dreamy than anything I'd have thought Grossman would put his hand to. Though it's much more bluesy, lilting, and sly, it reminds me of John McLaughlin's acoustic album, My Goal's Beyond, with its gentle-jazz whispers and dramatic pauses. If one has ever picked or plucked, the album is an invitation to figure out new ways to contort the fingers. If one hasn't, the liner notes by Karl Dallas of Melody Maker skillfully decode who is playing which guitar line and when. As the concert did, the album pulls together the improbable and comes up with a surprising complement, rather like ordering a measure of mead to quaff with your hot dog. And why not?

Track Listings
CD One:
1. Loopers Corner
2. The Shoes Of The Fishermans Wife Are Some Jive Ass Slippers
3. Twelve Sticks
4. Cocaine Blues
5. Pretty Girl Milking A Cow
6. Tightrope
7. Make Believe Stunt
8. Medley: Sheebeg An Sheemore/Drunken Wagoner
9. The Assassination of John Fahey
10. Medley:Cincinnati Flow Rag/New York City Rag/Hot Dogs

CD Two:
1. Medley: Judy/Angie
2. Lindsay
3. Medley: Lament For Owen Roe ONeill/Mist Covered Mountains of Home/ The Orphan
4. So Early In The Spring
5. The English Dance
6. Great Dreams From Heaven
7. Sweet Potato
8. Medley: Bonapartes Retreat/Billy In The Lowgrounds
9. Goodbye Porkpie Hat
10. Candyman
11. Midnight On The Water
12. Spirit Levels
13. Mississippi Blues

1. Loopers Corner
2. The Shoes Of The Fishermans Wife Are Some Jive Ass Slippers
3. Struttin Rag
4. The Assassination of John Fahey
5. Tightrope
6. Medley: Judy/Angie
7. Whitehouse Blues
8. Medley: Trotto/The English Dance
9. Goodbye Porkpie Hat
10. Candyman
11. Spirit Levels
12. Take A Whiff On Me

CD One & CD Two recorded in 1982 in Portland, Oregon and CD Two/tracks 1-7 recorded in 1983 in Sydney Australia
Remixed at Livingston Recording Studios Remix Engineer: Nic Kinsey

DVD produced in 1982 by Ohio University Telecommunications Center

Our Price: £19.99