George Gritzbach carried on the acoustic folk-blues tradition at the Cellar Door last night. Headliner Dave Van Ronk was already a dean of the New York folk scene when Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Phil Ochs emerged there in the early '60s. Gritzbach, who opened the show, is a relatively new face, but he already displays the gift of Van Ronk's earlier heirs.
Gritzbach shares Van Ronk's affection and facility for old blues.
More importantly, Gritzbach proved an exceptional songwriter. "The Sweeper an' The Debutante" from his recent album, delivered an ironically humorous tale of seduction. A newer song described the Three Mile Island incident from a Harrisburg basement where "Mama said put on a clean pair of underwear."
Dave Van Ronk was as reliable as he has been for 20 years. Whether picking out a lingering, melancholy version of Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" or singing like a rebounded echo on the folk classic "Green Rocky Road," he made every moment inimitably personal. This notion of personal style is what Van Ronk has passed on to younger singers like Gritzbach.
Gritzbach will open for Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee at the Cellar Door tonight and tomorrow night.