Rev. Gary Davis

June 2, 2008

Stefan Grossman has been doing God’s work for a long, long time now with his slew of Guitar Workshop and Vestapol releases. Whether it’s teaching the finer points of Celtic fingerstyle, bluegrass flatpicking, or Delta blues guitar, Grossman and company have kept the acoustic/roots flame burning bright. Aside from their instructional releases, however, Grossman has also made hay with tons of concert and documentary videos as well, and The Video Collection, a nearly two-hour retrospective on the amazing Rev. Gary Davis, is no exception. As a guitarist, Davis was the “full meal deal,” with a repertoire that seamlessly mixed ragtime, blues, jazz, and gospel numbers. The Video Collection was culled from every bit of footage Grossman could dig up on his former teacher Davis, and it’s all gold. Highlights include Davis appearing on Pete Seeger’s television show Rainbow Quest with Seeger, Donovan, and Shawn Phillips watching intently as Davis runs through “Sun Is Goin’ Down” and “Lord, I Feel Like Goin’” on a 12-string Gibson acoustic, deftly jumping back and forth between the upper and lower registers. Next up is footage from 1969, shot by the University of Washington’s anthropology department, showing Davis in Seattle running through eight tunes. The video is a tad grainy, but the audio is stellar and the same goes for the TV footage shot in 1967. Here, Davis slaps the butt-end of his Gibson acoustic with his right hand and frets a rollicking bass line with his left—so soulful, so funky. Also, the rhythmic propulsion Davis creates between his vocals and guitar playing is a wonder to behold. There’s a lot more where that came from, too. And, as with all Vestapol productions, the hand shots are exquisite, laying Davis’ thumbpick/index finger technique bare. There’s not much left to say other than, no matter what your style, this DVD is essential. 
—Darrin Fox

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