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RORY BLOCK
I Belong To the Band: A Tribute To Rev. Gary Davis
STONY PLAIN
Recreating classic American music, paying tribute to the masters and honoring the man who said "I do not play no rock and roll"
Rory Block has her own simple watchwords she tries to live by: "Life is short and fragile, and I know we all have a mission. It is a great privilege to be in this miraculous place, and that if you're here, you're chosen."
And she has been chosen - to recreate, revitalize and reinterpret the most classic of all American musical idioms: the Delta blues. The choice, of course, was hers to make - and she has followed it, with integrity, heart, soul and passion, since she was a young teenager.
Now, with the release of her third CD paying homage to the classic American blues artists, she has confirmed and delineated her mission. The new album (release date: March 29) is called Shake 'Em on Down: A Tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell.
McDowell, who was born in 1904 and who died in 1972, was one of the first artists from north Mississippi to attract national attention, after he had been "rediscovered" by Alan Lomax and recorded in 1959. His material was covered by - among many others - the Rolling Stones, and he was a vital part of the country blues revival of the early sixties.
Rory Block adds: "Fred was famous for saying 'I do not play no rock 'n' roll' - but in fact he did... or if he did not, he practically invented it. He (much like Muddy Waters) taught electric players how to take the rock solid groove of the soul of country blues and bring it into modern music."
Shake 'Em On Down is the second album she's made for Stony Plain Records, the international roots music label based in Edmonton, Alberta. Her first CD for the label, Blues Walkin' Like a Man, was a tribute to Son House; she made an earlier record featuring the music of Robert Johnson.
The new CD not only recreates some of McDowell's best-known songs, it includes four original pieces that express her admiration for a man she met so long ago. "I met Fred McDowell at a time in my life when I was most impressionable, and when the effect would deeply inspire and educate," she writes in the new CD's extensive liner notes. "That experience - along with meeting other country blues masters such as Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Skip James, Bukka White and Reverend Gary Davis - would become a life-long influence."
Growing up with the blues
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 15, already an accomplished guitarist, she discovered the Delta blues - then part of the wide world of folk music. She vividly remembers hearing Son House at the Village Gate: "As I watched him perform, rolling his head back, slamming the strings and almost choking on the intensity, I learned a deep lesson about the power of the music which became an inseparable part of me."
Her first recordings (under the pseudonym Sunshine Kate) were made for Elektra Records; she didn't record again 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 Music Awards) from the Blues Foundation, two for "Traditional Blues Female Artist," and three for "Acoustic Blues Album of the Year," the most recent of which was just last 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, Norway, Italy and a half 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."
And her peers echo the praise; Bonnie Raitt put it this way: "Rory 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."
Rory Block's experiences with the fathers of the blues are the foundation of an on-going new project she calls 'The Mentor Series,' of which Shake 'Em On Down is a part of. This new release coincides with the publication - available on her website: www.roryblock.com - of her excellent biography, When A Woman Gets The Blues.
"In the process on making these records, of playing these songs," she says, "I am experiencing a kind of rejoicing, a sense of completion and fulfilment of purpose."

Einzeltitel:

  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 (4:02)
  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)

Rezension aus bluesnews (nr 71/12):

Nach Robert Johnson (2006), Son House (2008) und Mississippi Fred McDowell (2011) beschäftigt sich Rory Block nun mit den Songs und der Gitarrenspielweise des Rev. Gary Davis, den sie als junges Mädchen persönlich kennenlernen durfte, dessen Musik sie seitdem bewundert und dessen "finger-thumb rolls" und "counter-point rhythms" sie auf diesem Album so nahe wie möglich kommen wollte, wie sie im Begleittext zur CD bereitwillig zugibt. Diese Übung sei die bislang schwierigste bei all ihren Tribute-Aktivitäten gewesen und habe ihr diverse blutende Fingerkuppen eingebracht. Rory Block hat es sich zur Aufgabe gemacht, mit diesem Album ihren Beitrag dazu zu leisten, dass all die Gospel- und Bluessongs des Reverend im allgemeinen Gedächtnis verankert bleiben, hat sich elf davon ausgewählt und sie - nur mit Hilfe ihrer Stimme und ihrer akustischen Martin-Gitarre - eingespielt, ohne dabei freilich ihre eigene Persönlichkeit als Künstlerin aufzugeben. Hört man sich zum Beweis zum Vergleich auch die Vorgänger-CDs noch einmal an, wird nämlich noch deutlicher, dass dies auch bei einem dermaßen eng ans Vorbild angelehnten Tribute-Projekt wie dem vorliegenden durchaus möglich ist. Wozu vermutlich auch Stefan Grossman - seines Zeichens anscheinend ebenso vom Reverend-Fieber angesteckt - beigetragen haben dürfte, der Block als Mentor und langjähriger künstlerischer Wegbegleiter unterstützt hat.

14.10.2012

(Karl Leitner)


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