Rory Block is on a mission. She’s a missionary with a holy mission. She’s out to convince people to become more aware and appreciative of the Southern blues troubadours who started the Country Blues, the blues troubadours who made it famous, too, since they’re not always one and the same.
Rory Block Blues Walkin’ Like A Man is Block’s latest. Check that defiant look on the cover of this CD. The mocking smile just below the surface. Even Son House’s hat seems to be mocking, daring you to dispute.
There isn't anything on this disc that any blues fan hasn't heard before. Lovers of country blues, however, will greatly appreciate Block’s take on these Son House 13 masterpieces. Those of you who don’t count yourselves in the country blues lover’s club can also take away a lot from this disc.
Country blues fans, or fans of older American music, are more than “fanboys,” as the common term that describes a lot of the shallow music that “fans” wade around in these days. Any serious music appreciator knows that to understand any subject, you’ve got to explore, study and hope to comprehend its history, both recent and long past. Archaeology, medicine, astrophysics, mathematics, biology, music … All these fields of study and many more require an extensive knowledge of the past. Without the past, we cannot accurately gauge or predict the future. And the future is right now, in case you hadn’t noticed.
It’s interesting to compare Block's take on Son House’s versions of the songs on this disc. Son House was an intense musician, visibly enjoying every pick, every syllable, while at the same time displaying an intensity of the music. As were most of the early Country Blues musicians, Son House was relatively uneducated. But House, as were most of the most popular names of these early entertainers, was also a wise man. Not from a book-learning aspect, sure, but it doesn’t take book smarts to know people, to understand true feelings, and to translate those illusory and elusive traits into song.
It also takes just as much wisdom for a modern country blues musician to interpret that music, and Block acquits herself beautifully here. Read the liner notes, spare though they are, and you’ll see in the list of thank yous many of the areas that Block researched in preparation for this CD. Block’s been a country blues scholar since her first professional appearance as a teenager, yet she still takes the time to refresh, learn, and relearn many of the techniques and nuances of this music, which is one of the important things that keeps Block’s name in the top tier of country blues performers.
The album is thirteen cuts lasting 54 minutes which will replayed over and over to give you many hours of enjoyment. There aren’t many American treasures around, but Block’s one of ‘em. Don’t miss her.