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Index of Artists

Rory Block

Biography:

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A fresh and inspired look at the gentle, hidden music of Mississippi John Hurt

Stony Plain releases Avalon, the fourth in the American guitarist’s recreations of the work of the classic blues artists of the past

Guitarist and singer Rory Block’s latest album for Stony Plain is the fourth in a series of recreations of the classic music of America’s great country blues singers.

And tackling the work of Mississippi John Hurt was a special challenge for her. In her own words: “We think of (his music) as mellow and sweet… but this gentle man sang about sex, murder, mystery, violence, and steamy sensuality. It gets ever deeper, the more you listen.”

And so Avalon: A Tribute to Mississippi John Hurt gets deep inside the master’s music, giving it devotion, respect, reverence and energy — extra “oomph” as she puts it.

The new CD follows ground-breaking releases that have recreated the music of Son House, Fred McDowell and the Rev. Gary Davis; she calls the CDs her “Mentor Series” and they will eventually form a boxed set. (A 2006 release, for the Rykodisc label, put the spotlight on Robert Johnson).

Rory Block met Mississippi John Hurt — and many other legendary blues figures who had been caught up in the early ’60s folk revival — when she was a teenager. She fell in love with their music: “When in the presence of the great blues masters I always felt a sense of joy and purpose,” she explains in the sleeve notes for her new album. “This was where I wanted to be.”

And now, nearly 50 years later, the teenager is one of the most thoughtful, accomplished country blues guitarists on the planet. The men whose music she reinterprets have all passed now, but she keeps their songs, style and spirit brilliantly alive.

Avalon: A Tribute to Mississippi John Hurt is her fourth album for Stony Plain in her “Mentor Series,” and it’s a joyful, emotional companion for Blues Walkin’ Like a Man: A Tribute to Son House, Shake ‘Em On Down: A Tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell, and I Belong to the Band: A Tribute to Rev. Gary Davis.

Mississippi John Hurt was born in the closing years of the 19th century; he died in 1966. He made his first recordings in 1928 for the OKeh label; Columbia Records later released many of these early tracks on a Legacy CF. As part of the folk music revival, he recorded prolifically and performed at most of the major North American festivals, including Newport and, in Canada, the Mariposa Folk Festival; he recorded major albums for the Vanguard label after his rediscovery

 

Growing up with the blues: Rory Block background

As a young teenager Rory Block — her full name is Aurora — grew up in New York’s Greenwich Village at the height of the “folk revival.” At 14, already an accomplished guitarist, she discovered the Delta blues — then part of the wide world of folk music. She vividly remembers hearing Mississippi John Hurt in 1963, and spending time with Son House, Fred McDowell and the Reverend Gary Davis.

Her first recordings (under the pseudonym Sunshine Kate) were made for Elektra Records, but she didn’t return to the studio until 1975, when she recorded for RCA Victor and Chrysalis before signing to Rounder Records, for whom she cut more than a dozen albums. She has also recorded for a number of other labels, in between endless tour schedules.

Along the way, she has won five W.C. Handy Awards (now known simply as Blues Awards) from the Blues Foundation, two for “Traditional Blues Female Artist,” and three for “Acoustic Blues Album of the Year.” She’s earned a gold record in Holland, and toured from one end of the United States to the other end of Canada, not to mention Poland and Norway and Italy and a half a dozen more European countries.

Everywhere she plays, audiences are touched by the depth of her commitment to the music. Critical plaudits always follow the applause: The New York Times put it plainly enough: “Her playing is perfect, her singing otherworldly as she wrestles with ghosts, shadows and legends.” And Guitar Extra added: “Rory Block has become one of the world's most important preservers of the roots of American music. She has become a national treasure in the form of an uncompromising mature blues artist.”

Hard Luck Child: A Tribute To Skip James

Hard Luck Child: A Tribute To Skip James
SPCD 1373
Genre: Blues
Released: 21 October 2014

"Blues is not meant to be for one human being alone, but for the soul of humankind." - Rory Block.

On her fifth release in the acclaimed 'Mentor Series' on Stony Plain, Rory pays tribute to Skip James, one of the most important country blues artists in history. Rory actively tours internationally and each new release is a high profile occasion in the blues community.

  1. Nehemiah James (5:31)
  2. Special Rider Blues (5:00)
  3. Cypress Grove Blues (4:29)
  4. If You Haven't Any Hay, Get On Down The Road (4:21)
  5. Little Cow And Calf Is Gonna Die Blues (5:18)
  6. Devil Got My Woman (4:45)
  7. Jesus Is A Mighty Good Leader (4:06)
  8. Hard Time Killing Floor Blues (4:15)
  9. I'm So Glad (3:20)
  10. Hard Luck Child (4:30)

Avalon: A Tribute To Mississippi John Hurt

Avalon: A Tribute To Mississippi John Hurt
SPCD 1369
Genre: Blues
Released: 4 June 2013
On her fourth release in the acclaimed 'Mentor Series' on Stony Plain, Rory pays tribute to Mississippi John Hurt, one of the most important country blues artists in history. Rory actively tours internationally and each new release is a high profile occasion in the blues community.

  1. Everybody Loves John (5:22)
  2. Avalon (5:14)
  3. Candy Man (3:41)
  4. Frankie & Albert (5:57)
  5. Got The Blues Can't Be Satisfied (3:58)
  6. Louis Collins (4:16)
  7. Richland Woman Blues (4:43)
  8. Spike Driver Blues (4:15)
  9. Stagolee (4:00)
  10. Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor (4:42)
  11. Pay Day (4:39)

Reviews:

Guitar Girl Magazine
By Drew Amendola
"Block has a remarkable talent for re-imagining blues classics"

I Belong To The Band: A Tribute To Rev. Gary Davis

I Belong To The Band: A Tribute To Rev. Gary Davis
SPCD 1359
Genre: Blues
Released: 29 May 2012
  1. Samson & Delilah (4:20)
  2. Goin' To Sit Down On The Banks Of The River (4:02)
  3. Let Us Get Together Right Down Here (4:00)
  4. I Belong To The Band (4:06)
  5. Lord, I Feel Just Like Goin' On (4:02)
  6. Lo, I Be With You Always (4:49)
  7. Pure Religion (5:07)
  8. Twelve Gates To The City (Listen to mp3 clip) (4:02)
    * free full length download *
  9. Great Change Since I've Been Born (4:31)
  10. I Am The Light Of This World (5:20)
  11. Death Don't Have No Mercy (5:06)

Reviews:

Nashville Blues Society
By Sheryl and Don Crow
Rev. Gary Davis took predominantly spiritual music and played it in a country-blues style, successfully melding the secular with "the Devil's music." Rory Block has shown us the deep respect she has for his music, and the difficulty that went along with mastering his styles and techniques. "I Belong To The Band" is one of her crowning achievements!

Shake 'Em On Down: A Tribute To Mississippi Fred McDowell

Shake
SPCD 1344
Genre: Blues
Released: 29 March 2011
  1. Steady Freddy (4:37)
  2. Mississippi Man (Listen to mp3 clip) (4:50)
    * free full length download *
  3. Kokomo Blues (3:58)
  4. Good Morning Little School Girl (5:13)
  5. What's The Matter Now? (4:50)
  6. Shake 'Em On Down (4:12)
  7. Worried Mind (3:40)
  8. The Man That I'm Lovin' (3:37)
  9. Ancestral Home (3:08)
  10. The Breadline (4:18)
  11. Woke Up This Morning (3:27)
  12. Write Me A Few Of Your Lines (3:55)

Reviews:

www.parcbench.com
By Greg Victor

If you don’t have a Rory Block album in your collection, this is a must-have. If you are already a fan, this one (is it really her 30th album?) is another superb addition. Block’s impulse to grow her own collection of “blues homage” albums was a brilliant idea, and (as the albums make clear) an important one. Rory Block is a powerful delta blues guitar player because what she plays comes from a lifetime of dedication to the blues musical legacy. The work she continues with this album is adding to her own artistic legacy.

Blues Walkin' Like A Man: A Tribute To Son House

Blues Walkin
SPCD 1329
Genre: Blues
Released: 16 September 2008
  1. My Black Mama (4:25)
  2. Downhearted Blues (4:39)
  3. Preachin' Blues (Listen to mp3 clip) (3:28)
  4. Jinx Blues (4:25)
  5. Dry Spell Blues (3:58)
  6. Shetland Pony Blues (3:33)
  7. Death Letter (Listen to mp3 clip) (4:25)
  8. County Farm Blues (3:31)
  9. Grinnin' In Your Face (Listen to mp3 clip) (2:09)
  10. Low Down Dirty Dog Blues (4:33)
  11. Depot Blues (3:09)
  12. Government Fleet Blues (7:03)
  13. I Want To Go Home On The Morning Train (4:01)

Reviews:

JazzReview.com
By Karl Stober
Block appeals to the inner sense that the blues instills into an audience.