This is a decent DVD, and worth buying. There are pros and cons to the thing, so here they go:
- Good tunes. Several of these songs are standards in the blues world, furthermore, Stefan's arrangements are quite good. They provide a solid version that is fun to play, cool to hear, and not too difficult to learn.
- There are tunes in both Open G and D
- The tunes gradually get more difficult, so you do build on the skills you learn. Some folks may not like this, but I actually think it's cool...it feels like a real class.
- The main influence in these tunes is Fred McDowell. Brozman seems very grounded in RJ, but Grossman seems most influenced by McDowell and Willie McTell. This is apparent in the inclusion of several tunes covered by McDowell and McTell and his use of alternating thumb-bass in several tunes, which is a a great skill to add to your slide playing. Now, that doesn't mean all these tunes are from McDowell's and McTell's repertoire, but it does mean that even when it's not stated, their influence is apparent. I really dig both of those artists, so this is cool with me.
- The footage of the old blues guys is really nice, however, in this youtube age, it's not terribly exciting. All of the video footage (and more) can currently be found online for free these days.
- Grossman is always pleasant and engaging in all of his videos.
- The tabs are wrong...quite often. This debate has gone on several times on Grossman's own message board. Mr. King appears to be the only person convinced of their complete accuracy. Even Stefan has posted to say that some of the tabs do not match what he plays. Yet Mr. King continues to personally insult anyone who disagrees with him...I'm not yet sure if he also believes Stefan can't read tablature since Mr. Grossman himself has admitted to some mistakes in the tabs. The good news? The tabs are "mostly" accurate, and even when they are off, the key elements to the song are usually correct. Furthermore, these arrangements are played numerous times and are of an intermediate level, so you CAN figure them out, even if the tab is wrong. I agree with Mr. King that Stefan does do a pretty good job of teaching the tunes (or at least the basic elements of the tunes) in fairly good detail. Furthermore, it honestly might make you a better player to start figuring them out by ear, and if you can't quite get Stefan's version down, then you can certainly nail down your own version with a little practice. My advice is to be prepared to use your "replay" button on your DVD player a lot, but to also be aware that with some patience and effort, you will be able to learn these songs.
- Frustrating camera work. There is no split screen on these and often the camera misses LOTS of stuff, especially on the right hand.
- Grossman never mentions that you can also play by damping with your fretting hand to prevent extraneous overtones. This is a basic skill that you can choose to use or not use. Depending on the tune you're playing, the sound you are going for, and even the type of guitar you are playing, you may or may not want to dampen the strings. However, if this is sold as a beginners DVD, and if Stefan is going to go into basics such as how to hold a slide, then this SHOULD at least be mentioned.
My advice? Start with Brozman's beginner DVD. He simply lays out the basics better. I spent about eight months arduously going over that Brozman DVD, and even thought about just giving the whole thing up before a proverbial "light" went off and I somehow managed to put all the skills together enough to not sound half-bad. (As an aside, the tabs for Broz's DVD aren't all that accurate either, but they are sufficient to learn the ideas he's putting down). Because the first Broz DVD focuses mostly on technique, I wanted my next purchase to have more of a focus on repertoire, so I picked up the Grossman DVD, and I have been satisfied with it as a next-step in building some repertoire before I head back to Brozman-land for his Vol. 2. I suppose I should clarify this review and say that Stefan does give plenty of good information on technique, licks, general advice on playing this stuff, etc... in this DVD, but in my opinion it works best as a repertoire builder for someone who already has some experience playing bottleneck blues.