Rory Block review…December 7, 2016…

RORY BLOCK

KEEPIN OUTTA TROUBLE

A TRIBUTE TO BUKKA WHITE

STONY PLAIN RECORDS  SPCD 1393

KEEPIN’ OUTTA TROUBLE–BUKKA’S DAY–ABERDEEN MISSISSIPPI BLUES–FIXIN’ TO DIE BLUES–PANAMA LIMITED–PARCHMAN FARM BLUES–SPOOKY RHYTHM–NEW FRISCO TRAIN–GONNA BE SOME WALKIN’ DONE–BACK TO MEMPHIS

For the sixth album in her “Mentor” series, Rory Block presents “Keepin’ Outta Trouble–A Tribute To Bukka White,” on the Stony Plain label.  The other five in the series, tributes to Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, and Skip James, are all available on Stony Plain and are all well worth checking out.  On this set, Rory intersperses five of her songs with five of Bukka’s, and cites his forceful guitar playing–much like Paul Bunyan wielding his axe–as her inspiration.  Also of note is Rory’s use of plastic tubs, Quaker Oats boxes, and various plastic cutlery as percussion, all of which she plays herself, as well as her trusty Martin flattop.

She leads off with a couple of her tunes done in Bukka’s style, as a lead-in to his material.  The second one, the lively “Bukka’s Day,” recalls the story of working all week and going to church on Sunday.  Rory utilizes several Biblical references, making Bukka a “deacon in the church of the blues, and includes a visit from “cousin B. B.,”(yes, Bukka and Riley King were indeed cousins!) who assures Bukka that “God is a blues man!”

She captures the poignancy and urgency of Bukka’s “Fixin’ To Die Blues,” where he “hates to hear my children cry.,” and his autobiographical “Parchman Farm Blues,” where he was sentenced to life after killing a man in a brawl, and only his musical skills got him released.  Rory’s slide and upper-register vocals bring out the authenticity of this one.

Our favorite was a “team effort,” so to speak.  Rory built “Gonna Be Some Walkin’ Done” from Bukka’s guitar riffs in “Jitterbug Swing.”  This one details what happens when you “miss that train to my girl’s house!”  It’s another lively  cut, with Rory’s vibrant playing and playful vocals adding to the spirit Bukka intended.

Rory Block is a national treasure.  Aside from being a world-class musician and singer, she has had the great fortune to not only meet, but to play the blues with some of the most fabled icons of pre-WWII blues.  And, she puts it all in perspective as, to Rory, all their music is the foundation of all the musical genres’ that exist today.  She has scored another excellent tribute with “Keepin’ Outta Trouble.”  Until next time…Sheryl and Don Crow, The Nashville Blues Society.

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