Rory Block Review May 31, 2013…

RORY BLOCK

AVALON

STONY PLAIN RECORDS  SPCD 1369

EVERYBODY LOVES JOHN–AVALON–CANDY MAN–FRANKIE AND ALBERT–GOT THE BLUES CAN’T BE SATISFIED–LOUIS COLLINS–RICHLAND WOMAN BLUES–SPIKE DRIVER BLUES–STAGO LEE–MAKE ME A PALLET ON YOUR FLOOR–PAY DAY

 

For the fourth installment of her “Mentor Series,” Rory Block chose another of the great bluesmen that she not only met in person, but who also had a profound effect on her music.  This man was Mississippi John Hurt, and “Avalon” has Rory paying tribute through ten songs that were either Hurt originals or songs closely associated with him,  and one of her own originals written just for this set.

Rory met John Hurt in December, 1963, at a concert in New York, during the folk music boom of that era, when many pre-WWII delta bluesmen were being “rediscovered.”  In seeing him perform, Rory noticed two things-he sang songs that dealt with violence, murder and sex, taboo subjects indeed for Sixties’ culture.  Also, she noted that he swayed from side to side as he played, deriving an extra energy from the movements.  She called this the “Mississippi John Hurt bounce energy,” and attempted to recreate that positive flow throughout her versions of these songs.

Rory’s original, “Everybody Loves John,” leads off, and serves as Hurt’s biography of sorts.  It denotes important moments in his life, such as signing with Okeh Records and playing the Newport Folk Festival.

 

Her exquisite finger-picking skills are on full display in her takes on “Avalon,” “Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor,” and the set-closing “Pay Day,” with a backing chorus that gives this one a gospel feel.

 

She also faithfully brings to life Hurt’s songs that deal with murder, namely the slide-driven “Louis Collins,” the tragic love story that is “Frankie And Albert,” and “Stagolee.”

Rory also brought out the playful sexuality of songs such as “Richland Woman Blues” and the sly double-entendres’ of the baudy tale of the “Candy Man.”  These two serve as our favorites.

 

Rory Block is the most celebrated female acoustic blues artist on the scene today, and she has learned from mentors such as Son House, Fred McDowell, and Rev. Gary Davis.  Now we can add Mississippi John Hurt to that list, with “Avalon” treating his music with the devotion, respect, and energy that we have come to expect from Rory.      Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow.

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