Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
"If you're from New York City, you're a natural-born schizophrenic," said natural-born guitarist Stephan Grossman, who appeared Wednesday night (and last night) at the Cellar Door with English guitarist John Renbourne. The two guitarists then proceeded in a series of duels and solo sets to demonstrate the various personalities of English and American folk music.
Grossman's set was rich and bluesy emotional detail, with songs that ranged from rural blues, to ragtime, to an improbable Scottish melody with Appalachian overtones. A student of the God fearing guitarist, the Rev. Gary Davis Grossman has a vocal and picking style that are roughhewn and soul wrenching with a wry wit thrown in for good measure. His twanging high notes and growling bass lines slashed to the heart of his material.
Renbourne was much softer, with languid guitar lines and soothingly gruff vocals that ranged from medieval dance tunes to a sprightly blues by Brooker T. Jones. His picking was spectacular, with an ease and an assurance that were most impressive on two Irish jigs, whose slurred voicings are usually better suited for tin whistles than steel strings.
The two finished the show with several duets in which the denim roughness of Grossman and the velvet smoothness of Renbourne proved a perfect match.