Houston musicians Rich DelGrosso (mandolin, pictured at left) and John Del Toro Richardson (guitar) teamed up on the recent Time Slips On By, a collaboration of original Delta blues songs, and they bring the product of their partnership to San Antonio this weekend.
“I am really glad that Jonn wanted to record together,” DelGrosso told the Current. “He is one of the finest guitarists in the business and together we have a unique sound and powerful energy.”
For their opening set, they will honor Johnson with at least one tune, but their homage will be more based on style than on material. “We have really been stressing the original material,” DelGrosso said. “We will play a Johnson tune, but our music really comes from different places: mine from my mandolin inspirations and heroes and Jonn from his East Texas heroes and his family and community.”
The blues/mandolin connection is not as rare as you think. In his memoir, blues pioneer W.C. Handy mentioned that he first heard the blues in 1903 with a compact of bass, mandolin, and guitar. “The mandolin played an important role in the music of the African-American community,” said DelGrosso, “especially the jug and string bands of the ’20s and ’30s, from Mississippi to Texas, from Tennessee to New York.”
To play in San Antonio, the site of most of Johnson’s greatest songs, is a special deal for DelGrosso. But opening for Block is a thrill in itself. “I’m honored,” DelGrosso said. “She has captured the essence of players like Johnson and Son House, and watching her perform is like looking through a window on the past.”