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Author Topic: PAYDAY!--Martin Grosswendt  (Read 2739 times)

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Offline Johnm

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PAYDAY!--Martin Grosswendt
« on: August 21, 2010, 01:43:54 PM »
PAYDAY!--Martin Grosswendt
PROGRAM:  Honey Blues; Payday; Liquored Up and Twisted; Can?t See Your Face; I Can?t Be Satisfied; Mansfield?s Waltz; Delia You?re Going to Need Somebody on Your Bond; I Will Turn Your Money Green; Mournin? Blues; Down Where the Drunkards Roll; Wish I Was in Memphis Sitting Down; Down In Mississippi; Blues for Danny Poullard/Blue Runner; Tennessee Blues

I bought this CD last week from Martin Grosswendt at the Guitar Intensives music camp in Bar Harbor, Maine, where the two of us were on the teaching staff.  I had been hearing good things about his music from a variety of sources for the past couple of years, but the camp was my first exposure to his singing and playing.  What a pleasure it is to hear someone for the first time who has been highly touted to you, and to discover that they have been under-praised.  I found Martin to be a profoundly musical singer and player in a variety of styles, Country Blues, Old-Time and Bluegrass (and I suspect others), though I suspect Country Blues comprises the core of his solo repertoire, as reflected on this brand new CD release from April of 2010.

PAYDAY! is a real treat--a Country Blues CD from a present day player with some stylistic outliers included in the program, but more about that later.  There is a lot of instrumental variety in the program.  In the course of it, Martin Grosswendt plays acoustic guitar most often, but other tracks find him playing electric guitar (?Liquored Up and Twisted?), fretless banjo (?I Can?t Be Satisfied? and ?Down In Mississippi?), fiddle (Blues for Danny Poullard/Blue Runner?) and singing a capella (?Wish I Was in Memphis Sitting Down?).  I suppose the unifying feature tying the program together is Martin?s warm and affecting singing.

In general, Martin comes across as someone who is interested in taking his material where he wants it to go, rather than choosing a strict re-creationist route.  He creates his own accompaniments for the songs, which may track his source recordings relatively closely or go somewhere else altogether different, including using a different instrument to back a song.  This approach ends up communicating a singular vocal/instrumental voice, his own, rather than the ?Now I?m going to sound like _________, now I?m going to sound like ______________? feeling with which one can come away from a string of more assiduous copies.  Hearing an individual make music in accordance with his/her own lights is what I?m looking for when I listen to music, so Martin?s approach suits me fine.

I won?t discuss the program song-by-song, but simply list the high points for me, assuming that other listeners will have their own favorites.  These renditions struck me in particular:
   * ?Liquored Up and Twisted? is the most successful cover of Robert Johnson I?ve heard.  It is, in fact, a Martin Grosswendt original, and thus not a song Johnson ever recorded, but it works Robert Johnson?s musical language spectacularly well, and showcases Martin?s superlative slide playing.  The choice of an electric guitar for the song suits it perfectly, and the original lyrics and vocal are strong, too.
   * ?Delia? has a sad vocal that suits the song--not stagey, but just sad.  And it is a sad damn song.
   * ?You?re Going to Need Somebody on Your Bond?.  This is my favorite recorded version of a song recorded by Blind Willie Johnson by anybody other than Blind Willie Johnson.  Martin Grosswendt must be one of the most accomplished slide players around today, and he gets a kind of whistling quality in his left hand with the slide that Blind Willie had and that I don?t hear other folks getting.
   * ?Down Where the Drunkards Roll?.  This song, penned by Richard Thompson, is one of the stylistic outliers alluded to earlier.  Much has been written in the past couple of years about how players that we think of as exclusively Country Blues players were prevented by their record companies from recording anything but blues, despite the fact that they liked and played other styles of music in their live performances.  Is it any less deplorable if present-day players feel constrained from recording non-blues music they like and play under normal circumstances in a blues program?  This is a great song and exceptionally well done--no problem.
   * ?Down In Mississippi?.  Martin?s rendition of this J. B. Lenoir song, accompanying himself on fretless banjo, is the high point of the program for me.  It has a tremendous feeling of rightness in its sound, and in one listen through justified the cost of the CD.  I fully expect to wear this track out.
   * ?Tennessee Blues?.  This is a very soulful rendition of this beautiful song by the recently deceased Bobby Charles.

Taken in sum, PAYDAY! is a very strong effort from a musician who has a great deal to offer, both vocally and instrumentally.  I am happy now to have made the acquaintance of Martin Grosswendt and his music and look forward to hearing more from him in the years to come.  To purchase PAYDAY!, you may contact Martin Grosswendt at: lesmoore2u AT cox DOT net.
All best,
John Miller
« Last Edit: August 22, 2010, 08:30:34 AM by Johnm »

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: PAYDAY!--Martin Grosswendt
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2010, 02:15:24 PM »


I'd been hearing about this feller for a while John. There is a terrific video on Vimeo of him doing Muddy Water's I be Troubled on a Banjo-Cello but they don't supply a posting code so I took this on from old reliable youtube.
Nice playing & singing nice sense of tension in the whole thing. He has this slight drag behind the beat thing, more pronounced than the original I believe but very effective.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
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Offline Stuart

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Re: PAYDAY!--Martin Grosswendt
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2010, 02:23:43 PM »
I used to see Martin perform from time to time in Vermont in the mid-seventies when he was associated with Philo. He was an excellent musician and over the years I would wonder what ever became of him. It's good to know that he continues to make music in the same groove, albeit with a relatively low profile.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2010, 02:24:50 PM by Stuart »

Offline Parlor Picker

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Re: PAYDAY!--Martin Grosswendt
« Reply #3 on: August 22, 2010, 02:06:48 AM »
Thanks for that introduction, John. I'd never heard of Martin. He now enters my microscopic list of people I think should be allowed to play Robert Johnson songs in public.
"I ain't good looking, teeth don't shine like pearls,
So glad good looks don't take you through this world."
Barbecue Bob

Offline eagle rockin daddy

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Re: PAYDAY!--Martin Grosswendt
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2010, 06:03:25 AM »
I gotta get this cd.  I met Martin at the 1970 Fox Hollow Folk Festival, where he blew me away.  Later that year he arrived in my hometown, Saratoga Springs, where he stayed until he moved to Vermont.  I am so glad to see he is finally coming into his own as a performer.  He is an amazing musician.  He is simply the best slide guitarist I have ever seen or heard.  His touch on the guitar is almost unique.  He has an incredible ear as well.  He is a wonderful person, and if anyone can ever see him, make sure you do!

Mike



Offline Stuart

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Re: PAYDAY!--Martin Grosswendt
« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2011, 08:34:55 AM »
I received "Payday!" and also "Call and Response" from Martin on Monday. They are both excellent albums and I highly recommend them. As Martin writes in his notes, the music captured him early on--and it shows. He is really at home with the music and has the talent to make it his own. I'll second everything that John has said in his review and strongly encourage you to add Martin's albums to your collection, as they are top shelf stuff, to say the least.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2011, 08:36:40 AM by Stuart »

Offline Johnm

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Re: PAYDAY!--Martin Grosswendt
« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2011, 11:04:04 AM »
I'm glad to hear you picked those up, Stuart.  Martin really is a strong player and singer, isn't he?  Each of the CDs has cuts that I feel justify their purchase, all on their own.  On "Call and Response", "Savannah Mama" and "The Good Times Are Killing Me" seem especially strong, and on "Payday", "You're Gonna Need somebody On Your Bond", "Down In Mississippi" and "Tennessee Blues" are all terrific.  He deserves more recognition, for sure.
All best,
Johnm

Offline Stuart

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Re: PAYDAY!--Martin Grosswendt
« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2011, 12:31:52 PM »
Hi John:

When I was listening to the CDs, they brought back memories of seeing Martin play 35+ years ago. As I said, he was really solid back then and I'm delighted that he continued to be actively engaged in music. He certainly does deserve more recognition and much greater exposure to a wider audience. Hopefully, our posts here will be a step in that direction.

I saw that he released an LP on Philo in 1979. I was living in Taiwan at the time and thus disconnected from this area of the music scene in the U.S., otherwise I would have probably picked it up.

 


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