Keepin' Outta Trouble - A Tribute to Bukka White, is now the sixth release in my Mentor Series, tribute recordings dedicated entirely to the rediscovered blues masters I met in person as a teenager. Each one of these legendary players imparted a veritable treasure trove of first-hand information to me, resulting in a life-long deep well of inspiration. This project is my way of saying thank you- to Son House, Fred McDowell, Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, and Bukka White- some of the all-time greatest and most influential names in early blues. Through fate, through luck, or perhaps some kind of divine intervention, I happened to be at the right place at the right time, and today it seems ever more precious and fleeting. I hope my humble offering contributes in some small way by giving credit where credit is due, and keeping the names of these founding musicians vivid and alive in our collective consciousness.
THE MENTOR SERIES
Keepin' Outta Trouble
A Tribute to Bukka White
"She has scored another excellent tribute with Keepin' Outta Trouble"
Don & Sheryl's Blues Blog
"... this could be the best of them all..."
The Rock Doctor - Canada
"Indisputably, Rory Block is one of the most impressive contemporary blues artists. Rooted so deeply in country blues traditions, Block can't be anything but authentic... An exciting album from start to finish... Block enlivens these performances with a balance of passion and precision... Her voice is magic, and her approach to blues guitar is clean, restrained, and just damn fine beautiful. Keepin' Outta Trouble: A Tribute to Bukka White is an excellent album."
"Keepin' Outta Trouble unfolds as a piercing one-act play distilling the bluesman's oft-harrowing biography into a series of indelible, penetrating scenes. The unembellished sonics enhance the intensity of Block's performances while underscoring the raw power of White's lyrics. In conception and execution, Keepin' Outta Trouble: A Tribute to Bukka White succeeds as a heartfelt remembrance on Rory Block's part, whose guitar playing is as assured as ever but whose vocals are coming from an even deeper place than those we've heard on her other albums and as a daring conceptual approach rarely heard in the blues world."
DAVID McGEE - DEEP ROOTS MAGAZINE
Hard Luck Child
A Tribute to Skip James
"Rory Block has won many awards and accolades from the blues community over the last few decades; her Mentor Series makes it plain to see why. She is both master and student of the country blues genre. As she says in her liner notes, "While the rest of the world was busy with modern things, I wandered down the dusty path towards the past in bare feet." A truer portrait of Block's music could not be painted... On each of the Mentor Series albums, strains of country, blues, and gospel come through Block's fingers, guitar, and voice as if she'd been selected by the blues Gods themselves to preserve and protect a disappearing tradition. What Block does here is not new, but it is masterful. She knows the terrain; she is fluent in the language."
"The fave sexy senior of any blues fan with a pulse turns the clock back 50 years once again for another tribute to the blues masters she spent actual time with back in the 60s when she was a wild child on the run soaking it all up. Certainly another awarding winning date from Block, this rollicks with the spirit of her honoree Skip James like it's all happening real time right now. One of five of the best lessons you could get in the history of traditional blues, Block is the best teacher there is. Killer stuff that doesn't quit coming, this lone girl and her guitar underscore the meaning of less is more better than Mies Van de Rohe ever could. Hot stuff throughout."
CHRIS SPECTOR - MIDWEST RECORD, CHICAGO, IL
"Rory Block is simply one of the finest living interpreters of vintage acoustic blues, a guitarist who understands both the technique and the spirit of the great country blues artists of the '20s and '30s... Block's guitar work on this album is typically splendid... engineer Rob Davis does excellent work here giving Block's guitar and vocals an intimate presence that suggests an updated, hi-fidelity version of James' 78s for Paramount."
A Tribute to Mississippi John Hurt
"This is the fourth in her Mentor Series... Were this all she had ever done, her place in Blues history would be secured forever... No one, short of the masters themselves has ever played this music with the power and passion that Rory Block plays... Avalon is a modern masterpiece."
BILL WILSON - REFLECTIONS IN BLUE
"... yet another masterclass from a lady who deserves to be called 'the first lady of the blues'.
MICK RAINSFORD - BLUES IN BRITAIN
"Another in the continuing line of masterpieces from Rory Block... The strongest contender, by far, for Best Blues Tribute Album 2013... "
JOHN VERMILYEA - Blues Underground Network
"... one of the finest guitarists of her era... Block's guitar work is, as always, phenomenal..."
Friday Blues Fix
"... Among the names Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Sippie Wallace, Rory Block stands among the great women of the blues."
BILL HURLEY - The Alternate Root Magazine
"Rory Block is one of America's greatest treasures..."
ADRIAN BLACKLEE - BLUES MATTERS
"... a modern masterwork... she has succeeded brilliantly... Avalon is flawless, alive, full of joy and passion..."
BARRY KERZNER - American Blues Scene
"... a modern master in her own right, it simply doesn't get much better."
JOHN TAYLOR - BLINDED BY SOUND
"... her playing is sublime... Rory Block's recordings are stuff of a particular kind of brilliance."
"To say I love this album would be an understatement... Avalon is a deep and intimate blues experience that I can not recommend highly enough."
Uncle John's Record Barn - GONZO ONLINE
“... sass and soul... Killer stuff..."
CHRIS SPECTOR - Midwest Record - Chicago, IL
"Her exquisite finger-picking skills are on full display..."
SHERYL AND DON CROW - donandsherylsbluesblog
“This is my favorite of the 4 releases and I'm sure that Block will be rewarded for her faithful efforts."
Bman's Blues Report
I BELONG TO THE BAND
A Tribute to Reverend Gary Davis
SHAKE 'EM ON DOWN
A Tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell
"It’s simply a killer by a player at the top of her game. Hot stuff throughout."
CHRIS SPECTOR - Midwest Record - Chicago, IL
“The name Rory Block is synonymous with the word legend in the world of blues... She’s revered for her talents, she’s critically acclaimed...”
“... yet another brilliant release from Rory Block, one that pays tribute to a Legendary Artist by an Artist who is certainly heading in the direction of legendary status, herself.”
JOHN VERMILYEA - Blues Underground Network
“Block has incredible vocal range... she digs down to the depth of her soul... she conveys so much emotion that you can believe she not only understands what the originators felt, but she’s experienced the same feelings.”
JEFF JOHNSON - Chicago Sun-Times
“Shake 'Em On Down is sexy and salacious... Block spits out the lyrics with a passion... driving guitar groove... another fine addition to Block's growing catalog of tribute discs."
MARK SMITH - Bluesource.com
"... This is a woman who continues to amaze. She has won many awards and I expect her to win more with this excellent offering."
"...one of the highest notes of her brilliant career..."
JOHN VERMILYEA Blues Underground Network
"...as feisty, fierce and compelling as the masters she honors and interprets."
MIKE JURKOVIC Folk And Acoustic Music Exchange
The Lady & Mr Johnson
2007 Blues Music Awards
Acoustic Album Of The Year
Cover: Rory with Richard Johnson, great grandson of Robert Johnson
Photo: Shonna Valeska
“This album cements Rory Block’s reputation as THE premier acoustic blues practitioner in today’s music canon... one of the best albums of the year, bar none!”
George Bennet, MusicTap
“... an extraordinary recording... Rory Block has to be one of the finest acoustic slide Blues players alive today...”
Richard Marcus, Blogcritics.org
“... impeccable, almost unbelievable... she has completely nailed Johnson’s technique... a flawless album...”
Megan Frye, All Music Guide
“...she’s arguably the top slide player on the planet, bar none...
Mojo Flucke, PhD, Bullz-eye
“...masterpiece of a tribute... one of the premier acoustic blues players in the world... transcends anything she has done up until now...”
Paul Shugrue, Out Of The Box
|The Lady and Mr. Johnson on Rykodisc features Rory performing 13 of Robert Johnson’s greatest classics. The following is an excerpt from the liner notes:
“From 1964 until the winter of 2006, I thought Robert Johnson had no surviving relatives. There was a sense of terrible loss and loneliness surrounding his tragic, early death. How could so great a musical giant have left us after only one recording?* Imagine my joy when halfway through this project I learned that Johnson’s family had been found, alive and well in Mississippi. Heart pounding, I dialed the phone, voice shaking, and said ‘You don’t know me, but to me, you’re family... I feel like I’ve just found long lost kin!’ On the other end came a beautiful voice in a deep, mellow tone... and the hair stood up on my neck...”
* In 1964, “Robert Johnson/ King of the Delta Blues singers” was the only recording available
Robert Johnson's son Claud Johnson & Rory
Photo: Shonna Valeska
“Rory Block should have a Doctorate in my grandfather’s music.”
Steven Johnson, grandson of Robert Johnson
“When I hear Rory Block’s music, it’s as if my grandfather is here all over again.”
Greg Johnson, grandson of Robert Johnson
|Rory & Michael Johnson||
Rory & Michael
w/ Richard & Michael Johnson
Richard Johnson & Rory
Steven Johnson & Rory
Rob, Steven & Rory
Photos: Shonna Valeska
FROM THE DUST
“Bottom line: there’s nobody like Rory Block... Rory Block is the blues... one can hear the actual historic blues tradition write itself into the new century... one of the music’s few living legends.”
Thom Jurek, All Music Guide album pick
"... Rory Block is currently stretching the limits... hugely talented... She is one of our national treasures."
Richard Ludmerer- Director, The New York Blues & Jazz Society
"... plays the blues like a force of nature... astonishing power and passion... her guitar chops have chops, and she is certainly among the top living blues guitarists extant, male or female."
Bruce Menin, Merrimack River Current
"... one of the most remarkable acoustic blues albums in recent years..."
Chicago Sun Times
"... Today, she's arguably the greatest acoustic slide guitarist around."
Tuscaloosa (AL) News
"... a dazzling display of guitar wizardry... "
"... light years ahead of many of her contemporaries."
"... impeccable renditions of songs associated with her late mentor Son House...
"Last Fair Deal is a brilliant piece of work...an amazing masterpiece...
Last Fair Deal, on Telarc Blues, is a total celebration of my lifelong love affair with the guitar. Finally, I practised (the last time I really practised the guitar was in 1964), and the result of a little discipline has been entirely satisfying. I wanted to use the guitar as the foundation for everything and attempted to take my playing beyond any of the boundaries I might have placed on it in the past. Acoustic, and leaning heavily on slide, it features lots of syncopated and percussive riffs which have come straight from the road. I set out to use the instrument at times as an orchestra, at times in a stark and solitary way. I improvised more than I ever have before, I wrote and created and stayed close to the bone in every way I knew how. Recorded both in our home studio and on the road in the tour bus, I hope it has the grittiest, earthiest feel of anything I have ever done. With trucks roaring by and various dogs racing about or chawing on bones, you will find the atmosphere of life on “The Dog Ranch” in the background from time to time. We gave up trying to sanitize it early on, and went for feel and a live quality. Over half the songs are my own originals, yet I have kept all the material within the acoustic framework by surrounding everything in either one or multiple layers of guitar. It is a very emotional recording with the originals drawing inspiration from life, friends, the world, etc, and the traditional blues songs from my long time love of Robert Johnson, Son House, Charlie Patton and early gospel.
Two photos from the eight panel booklet.
My 14th CD for Rounder Records, "I'm Every Woman" is an ecclectic blend of R&B, blues, acoustic, a capella, and gospel. Included are duets with special friends Keb Mo, Kelly Joe Phelps, my son Jordan, and Reverend Herb Sheldon. The CD starts with a slide improv I was doing at a sound check and ends with a trailing of the same theme. That's drummer Sean Pelton laughing after a particularly smokin' version of Feel Like Breakin' Up Somebody's Home. I like the unexpected. Hope Al Green doesn't mind my version of Tired of Being Alone... sure was fun singin' it!
|After having delved deeply into my passion for country blues and eclectic songwriting on my previous recordings, the feeling was that it was a good time to get a little crazy with number fourteen! I decided to record a mixure of styles from bare bones to some of my all-time favorite soul classics. I wanted to pick songs and artists that are to soul music what Robert Johnson is to country blues... Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass, Curtis Mayfield, and Chaka Khan for instance. So this album is a bit different, adventurous, and even a little bit uptown. Someone saw the new cover recently and said it was "glam!" Cool! Keb Mo and I sing "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing" (Asford & Simpson), with the smokin'est band of New York City musicians, to which we added a little street corner crooning at the beginning and the end. Kelly Joe Phelps and I do an acoustic version of "Pretty Polly" with KJ's signature heart-piercing slide taking the song out. The Reverend Herb Sheldon of the Payne AME Choir and I collaborate on a gospel song from the "Sounds Of Blackness" group called "Hold On/Change Is Coming" (Herb's testimony will make your hair stand on end)- I sing Al Green's "Tired Of Being Alone", "Love TKO" made famous by Teddy Pendergrass and written by Noble-Womack & Womack, "I'm Every Woman" (one of Chaka Khan's many hits, written by Ashford and Simpson),"Fool For You" by Curtis Mayfield- and a wild, stark, a capella song called "Sea Lion Woman" with Saffire's hard-hitting songwriter and blues vocalist Gaye Adegbalola. An extra nice photo session by Shonna Valeska put the icing on the project.|
Photo Credit: Shonna Valeska
|CONFESSIONS OF A BLUES SINGER won Acoustic Blues Album Of The Year in May of 1999. I thank Bonnie Raitt for her support in making a guest appearance and am always thrilled to work with my son Jordan, who sang on a Bukka White song and played barrel house piano. The album includes Robert Johnson's "If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day" and "Ramblin' On My Mind", Charlie Patton's "Bo Weavil Blues", songs by Louise Johnson, Furry Lewis, Bukka White, Blind Willie McTell, Reverend Robert Wilkins, William and Versey Smith, and two original songs. I have received a tremendous amount of support to record more traditional blues, and this album is in response to that, but I also appreciate the joy it gives me to immerse myself in the old music. The last two songs on the album are my own, the first of which is written for my dear friend Marian Van Ness who died last year at the age of 96, and the other a song which chronicles my life with the blues. The following is from the liner notes:
"One night I had a dream and woke with the slide riff from Charlie Patton's Bo Weavil Blues soaring through my brain with great clarity and volume. This was extremely odd as I had never focused on that particular song nor had I heard it for 30 years.. I couldn't even remember the title and had to listen to the entire CD collection to find it. I realized I was meant to record it, and that focused this album. I decided I was going to go for 'feel' over 'perfection.' I wanted to move in the spirit of the early recordings where spontaneity and musical freedom were at the core of everything, all soul and raw power and no technological advantages save the on/off button on the tape recorder. I suddenly felt free to leave the buzzing notes, the imperfect intonation, the unfinished endings.. because it's not about a cleanly edited crisp song.. it's about joy and dedication to the beauty of music that was the original basis for everything. I asked the engineer to record the vocals a little bit harder and thinner than today's audiophiles would perhaps appreciate, but I wanted to be closer to the old sound.. I wanted it to be just a little bit disturbing. In fact I never really mixed this album, I just used the studio roughs at the end of the day because they always have the best energy. As I listened to the old recordings I was amazed all over again by the incredible power and unselfconscious beauty in the music. Songs that are one chord, songs that are mostly wailing, songs which growl, songs which slam and thump, songs which end with a plop and start without an intro. I was walking through the house screaming, 'Listen to this fabulous song! Listen to this fabulous song!' I still don't think there is anything as glorious and beautiful as an old blues or country song recorded in the early part of this century. That time, those circumstances, and the people who created the music will never be here again, but they left us with the burning desire to carry forth some part of the spirit to show our deep appreciation."
NBC WEEKEND IN NEW YORK
In March '97 I appeared on NBC's "Weekend in New York" show, and later that same month one of the songs from my Angel Of Mercy CD, "You Deserve The Best," was used in an ABC prime time documentary hosted by Oprah Winfrey. Also in May I finally played on my favorite radio show, Prairie Home Companion. Along with my incredible "it doesn't get any tighter than this" band (to quote an astute observer), we did half solo and half band. I can't say enough good things about Garrison Keillor, and the show's producer, along with the world's nicest crew.