Guest Author - Chris Curtis
"Rory Block has been an inspiration to me since we started out years ago. Her guitar playing, singing and songwriting are some of the most soulful in traditional and modern blues." Bonnie Raitt
I've had the pleasure of attending a Rory Block performance at Stone Soup Folk Arts Foundation in Rhode Island. Stone Soup is an interesting concept as opposed to a place. It was originally envisioned as a coffee house, organized loosely with volunteers, to bring in recognized talents in folk, blues, and celtic traditions. I thank the organizers of Stone Soup for bringing in the best in the business.
Stone Soup is currently operating out of the Pawtucket Visitor’s Center in Pawtucket, RI. Saturday’s concert was held in the open lobby over a large map of the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Map. My “date” for the evening was my sister and we joked about being able to walk from southern RI to Worcester in a matter of a minute. As the performance got underway, the Blackstone River Valley became alive with the music of a very talented woman.
Opening for Rory, was Tom Dean who was a marvelous folk singer from NH but with roots in the Blackstone Valley. Opening with “Love is Always Going to Look Like You”, Tom performed a set of six acoustic folk pieces from his CD (Insert CD title here). During his set, Tom recognized all the mothers in the audience for Mother’s Day and dedicated one of his songs to his mom who was also present. He joked with her by telling the audience about his mother’s day give of flowers and two $1.25 mood rings. Clearly the audience enjoyed his performance as they called for an encore.
If you are not familiar with Rory Block and you appreciate Classic Acoustic Delta Blues, you must take the time to discover her. Rory’s incredible talent is influenced by pre-WWII acoustic blues masters such as Son House, Reverend Gary Davis Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, Kansas Joe McCoys and Skip James. Her 14 LPs, recorded with Rounder Records, include covers from these classic greats, as well as many of Rory’s own writings and arrangements that will stand the test of time.
Rory started out her set with an energetic slide guitar piece called “Orchard Blues” that she termed aerobic to get her fingers warmed up. With foot stomping fervor, Rory not only warmed up her fingers but the audience as well. Throughout the 14 song mix, Rory gave us a wide range from covers of classic standard Delta Blue, to gospel, to a hymn she wrote for her choir, to her own from the heart-felt, deep-rooted blues writings. Not only are her covers of the classics sung with spirit, her own songs are cut from the same cloth as the masters that she emulates. The combination of her powerful voice, electrifying acoustic steel strung guitar slide riffs, her foot stomping accompaniment, and range of emotion delivered an intense performance.
Quite memorable was her a cappala rendition of Robert Johnson’s “Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down”, and Kansas Joe McCoy’s Joillet Bound. Apologizing for not being well rehersed on this brand new hymn for her choir, she delivered a moving performance with “Declare” inspired by the book of Job. Clearly among her fans favorites, a sigh of pleasure was heard as she launched into “Spiderboy” about half way through the set.
Stone Soup’s setting allowed for an intimate relationship with her audience. Equally interesting to me, as was her musical performance, Rory told several stories of her life and career. Her musings had such lessons behind them with words and phrases that will remain forever in my memory. Two such phrases that I can particularly relate are “Worse than forever” and “Better be careful, because it all comes back to you”. Such powerful wisdom. Clearly she is a deeply spiritual human who has a desire to share her life lessons with her fans so that they too can internalize their meanings. Thank you, Rory for sharing.
Rory, left the stage to a standing ovation and fans demanded she return one more time. As the nite closed, I was thrilled to have been able to experience these two performers. The contrast between Tom Dean’s mellow folk tunes and Rory Block’s foot stomping Delta Blues was excellent. Both performances stood on their own merit. I walked away with a smile on my face and the memory of two great performances reverberating in my memory.
"Blues and Best Originals"
"I Am Every Woman"
Rounder Records (Listen to clips from the Album (I'm Every Woman)"