Happy Monday, folks, from rainy Idaho. Gettong a late start today, as yesterday was a rather wild churchmouse party involving lots of music & lots of curry! But I’m here at last with the Monday Morning Blues, & an exciting one, because I get to write about a blues performer who's been a huge inspiration to me both as a musician & as someone who loves the old time blues. Yes, I’ve postponed adding Rory Block to the Any Woman’s Blues series long enough.
I don’t recall exactly why I bought the cd Gone Woman Blues back in the mid 1990s, but I doubt I’ve listened to any cd more over the past 15 or 16 years. What is it about this cd & Rory Block’s music in general that I find so compelling? Of course she is a masterful guitar player—that’s a given. She has a dazzling array of chops—great slide playing, dynamic rhythms, intricate fingerstyle playing: as far as “country blues/Delta blues” playing goes, Rory Block has it all. & her singing is also amazing—a huge vocal range, with power & feeling in all parts of that range.
“Feeling”—I would say, “passion” is indeed a quality that sets Rory Block’s playing apart. Let’s face it: there are lots of great guitar players out there in the blues field—simply being able to string together amazing licks doesn’t make one a great musician. & when you’re talking about professional singers—well, a good number of them can sing an impressive range of notes. But without bringing that extra dimension to the playing & singing, it just doesn’t rise to the highest level. I had the chance to see her perform live last year in a small venue in Eureka, Montana, & I can assure you, her performance in person was every bit as masterful as what you hear on her recordings!
Rory Block adds that extra dimension, & to spare. She doesn’t simply “preserve” the old blues traditions, she makes her repertoire her own. & while I can’t play or sing like Rory Block, I’ve tried to take this lesson with me as much as I can when I play & perform the blues songs I love.
I realize I haven’t given you much background on Rory Block—but if you’d like that, there are plenty of sources online, such as the bio on Rory Block’s own site or the old standby, Allmusic. You can even get Rory Block’s autobiography When a Woman Gets the Blues as an e-book/pdf at this link! Since I do mention the guitars performers favor, I will note that Rory Block typically plays a Martin OM-28 VR
I think Rory’s performance on the following two classic Delta blues (by Son House & Robert Johnson) will give an idea of what I mean—enjoy!