Keepin’ Outta Trouble By Rory Block

March 16, 2017

Rory Block is one of the most accomplished blues musicians working today, male or female. She has received five Blues Music Awards in the Traditional Blues Female and Acoustic Blues Album Of The Year categories.

Several years ago she embarked on her Mentor Series and to date has issued albums covering and being inspired by the music of Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt, Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi John McDowell, and Son House.

Her sixth album in the series, Keepin’ Outta Trouble, is a tribute to Bukka White. Interestingly, White’s music inspired her to create more original compositions than any of the previous releases in the series.

The four Bukka White penned tunes, “Aberdeen Mississippi Blues,” “Panama Limited,” “Parchman Farm Blues,” and “New Frisco Train” are classic interpretations straight from the Delta. She has always been a superior acoustic guitarist and her ability and style brings out the original power of these old blues songs.

Her own songs are modern day blues who use White’s material for their inspiration. “Gonna Be Some Walkin’ Done” is a clever ditty based on White’s guitar lines from “Bukka’s Jitterbug Swing.” She wisely leads off the album with her own “Keepin’ Outta Trouble” and “Bukka’s Day,” which not only introduce the theme of the album but her own approach to traditional blues.

Block has followed her own career path, and many times has travelled the road less taken, and through it all has dedicated herself to playing, creating, and preserving the blues. She has never wavered from her chosen musical career path. The fact that she is so good at her chosen profession is just icing on the cake. Keepin’ Outta Trouble is another brick in her wall of blues.



Hard Luck Child By Rory Block

January 20, 2015


Rory Block left home at 15 to seek out surviving Delta Blues artists and released her first album at the age of 17. She is now one of the leading female blues artists with five W. C. Handy Awards to her credit.

Several years ago she began what she calls her Mentor Series, which are albums dedicated to the music of some of the old bluesmen that influenced her career. Previous releases have featured Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Reverend Gary Davis, and Mississippi John Hurt.

She has now returned with Hard Luck Child, which showcase the music of Skip James.  Nine of the ten tracks are devoted to his music, with the tenth being a biographical piece.

Skip James, 1902-1969, may not have been as well-known as some of his contemporaries but he was a pure Delta style bluesman. Like many of the artists who invented the blues, he made a celebrated comeback during the mid-1960’s beginning at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. Today he is probably best remembered for Cream’s cover of his “I’m So Glad.”

Block has an intimate connection with all of the bluesmen she has covered as she met them as a teenager. She is a vocalist/guitarist who has devoted her life to the blues and now brings a precision and passion to her craft. Her “Nehemiah James” is the lead track and sets the tone for what will follow. It is part blues, part gospel, and part biography all held together by her guitar and voice.

“Hard Luck Child” is the blues at its best as she tells a quiet story. “Cypress Grove Blues” has a smooth and ominous sound. Skip James always had a sad side to his music and “Little Cow And Calf Is Gonna Die Blues” reflects his melancholy nature. “Jesus Is A Mighty Good Leader” finds her fusing the old with the new.

Interestingly she adds more of a spiritual quality to the music than James’ originals but they are her interpretations, which makes the music that much more authentic.

Rory Block, through her voice and guitar, has created another personal masterpiece that brings some forgotten music of the past back to life. Hard Luck Child is a worth-while purchase for any fan of the blues.

Shake ‘Em On Down by Rory Block

March 26, 2011

Any new release by Rory Block is like a breath of fresh air or, to be more precise, a fresh breeze from the southern Delta — the original home of American Blues.

Aurora Block was a child of the sixties and the Greenwich Village folk scene. Leaving home as a teenager, she traveled to California and began playing the club and coffeehouse circuit. She also immersed herself in the Delta Blues, setting out to meet and play with some of her heroes, including Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, Bukka White, Reverend Gary Davis, and Mississippi Fred McDowell.

Now four decades into her career, she is recognized as one of the premier female blues artists in the United States. She has won five prestigious W.C. Handy Awards or Blues Music Awards as they were re-named in 2006. She has also won twice for Traditional Blues Female Artist and three times for Acoustic Blues Album Of The Year.

She has now returned with what I think is her 30th album. Lately she has been issuing tributes to her old Delta Blues idols. Albums dedicated to Robert Johnson and Son House have now been followed by Shake ‘Em On Down, which is a tribute to her old mentor Mississippi Fred McDowell.

It is both a traditional and non-traditional tribute album. She covers seven of McDowell’s well-known songs but also includes four original compositions which channel his style and praise him as a musician, as well as one autobiographical song that talks about her encounter with him while she was a teenager. The last track is a rollicking cover of the old Sonny Boy Williamson classic, “Good Morning Little School Girl.”

The best of the McDowell tracks is “What’s The Matter Now,” which is perfect for her guitar style and voice. She’s added a second guitar part which fill in the gaps nicely. Also of note is the title song, which is one of those smoldering and sexual Delta Blues tunes which were prevalent back in the early 20th century. “Kokomo Blues” is just an effortless cover of the early blues at its best.

The albums best track, though, is her autobiographical “Mississippi Man.” It deals with her encounter with McDowell as a 15-year old and whets the appetite for more. She mentions in the liner notes that the full story is contained in her autobiography, which I have got to check out. She also presents a great story in the traditional style of the Delta Blues. The album’s first track is her “Steady Freddy,” which contains excellent examples of her acoustic and slide guitar prowess.

The album is presented in the spirit of Block’s love for the Delta Blues. She strips the sound back to basics as she plays all the guitar parts and provides all the vocals. The only variance is her playing both guitar parts, which is a nod to modern technology.

Shake ‘Em On Down is the latest in a long line of superior blues releases by Rory Block. She continues to invite her listeners back to visit the origins of the blues and it is a journey worth sharing with he her.

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