First few posts here (though I've been on the related Fingerstyle Forum for a few years) and I don't think, after doing a search, this topic has been addressed lately. I hope you can provide some assistance.
First, some background ... I've been back at the guitar with dedication for about a decade. I've had several injuries to my fretting hand and arm over those years. The most severe was a fall about five years ago which fractured my wrist, broke two fingers, shattered my left elbow and released the triceps muscle. A few hours worth of surgery and some months of rehab got that back to being the best it's going to be.
"Grip strength" is still somewhat of a problem but that doesn't appear to be the issue with this song. Besides, I've always felt playing the guitar was similar to doing martial arts in that leverage was more important than simple strength alone. If a move proves difficult, I'll generally find a work around that gets me through.
A severe dog bite on my right hand index finger almost caused me to loose that finger but it healed and it's much better despite the fact I can neither fully extend nor fully flex that finger. The elbow's all screwed and glued back together and now my problem is a trigger finger on both hands.
That too is slowly coming back to normal and they are both to the point where I can play without pain. All together I'm not as fast as I once could be and certain chord shapes are still difficult. The most difficult are full barre chords so I avoid them as much as possible. Once again, that doesn't seem to be a problem with this song.
My main guitar in a Martin 000-17SM, which I generally capo at the second fret to remove the break angle of the nut which reduces string tension and gives me just a smidge more neck width and string spacing.
The problem I'm having is with Stefan's version of Rev. Davis' "Cocaine Blues" which I have on an early DVD "How to Play Blues Guitar" (this DVD happens to have a photo of Rev Davis on its cover, wouldn't you know?); https://www.amazon.com/How-Play-Blues-Guitar-Lesson/dp/B000GI3KP8
If you are unfamiliar with this specific arrangement, you can see it here beginning on pg 48; http://www.guitarvideos.com/assets/pdf/13036dvd.pdf
While I in no way consider myself to be anything more than an intermediate level player, the Rev. Davis (combined with Stefan on this one) has defeated me. I've had Stefan's book, "Rev. Gary Davis/Blues Guitar", for several years and have generally avoided it out of frustration; https://www.amazon.com/Rev-Davis-Blues-Guitar-Country/dp/0825601525
I've listened to numerous versions of the song from historic to modern and I have read and listened to other actual students of Davis giving their take on his music. I've tried other players' tutorials just to get their take on the song. I've slowed Stefan's youtube video and the DVD down to 0.25 speed several times.
I've done everything I would tell a student to try if I were teaching the song. Possibly, I'm just having a mental block - approaching the great Rev. Gary Davis - but this feels more like a physical thing.
I can play monotonic and alternating bass lines without issues. Neither of those techniques appear to be my problem. IMO I'm OK with most blues and several rags other than when I get to Davis and Blind Blake, which I still find frustrating, but I figure I can't do it all. That doesn't stop me from trying and wanting to get the hang of these two player's styles.
I have with "Cocaine Blues", though, split my practice time between the bass line and the melody line and can play either separately without significant problems. A few hammer ons still aren't perfect but they're coming along. On those days where I know I'm not at my best, I play by removing a few of the hammer on's just because, for example: measure one, the fourth string hammer ons.
I'm playing with my thumb and index finger as Stefan and Roy Bookbinder seem to suggest for Davis' music.
Decades ago I learned to play by diving into classical guitar techniques so I can use all four fingers when needed. The number of fingers I use also just doesn't seem to make a difference here.
Just this past weekend I also ordered the 2 DVD set, "Blues Guitar of Rev. Gary Davis", hoping to gain further insight into Davis' unique take on playing; https://www.amazon.com/Blues-Guitar-Rev-Gary-Davis/dp/B000Z7OTH8
They have yet to arrive.
I won't say I've completely mastered the other songs on the DVD but the Rev. Davis' two songs are giving me persistent problems. On other songs from this and other lessons, I can get a hang of the musical flow and the ideas found within the timing after a while by playing the TAB/notation as written and then I can begin to "create" my own version.
The most persistent problem here is simply mastering the timing of the changes as written. The music does not flow and I find I'm making too many mistakes when I play the song as written out. "Creative freedom" is well down the road with these songs. Slowing down certainly helps but then "flow" is out the window.
What have I left out which might assist you in assisting me?
What secret decoder ring am I missing in Davis' music?
Have other players found the same or similar problems when approaching Rev. Davis' style?