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Rory Block

Aurora "Rory" Block has staked her claim to being one of America's top acoustic blues women, an interpreter of the great Delta blues singers, a slide guitarist par excellence, and a talented songwriter in her own right. Born and raised in Manhattan by a family that had bohemian leanings, she spent her formative years hanging out with musicians like Peter Rowan, John Sebastian, and Geoff Muldaur, who hung out in her father's sandal shop, before picking up the guitar at the age of ten. Her record debut came two years later, backing her father on The Elektra String Band Project, a concept album. She met guitarist Stefan Grossman, who, like her, was in love with the blues. The pair would often travel to the Bronx to visit Reverend Gary Davis, one of the greatest living bluesmen.

At the tender age of 15 Block left home, hitting the road in true '60s fashion and traveling through the South, where she learned her blues trade at the feet of Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt, her greatest influence, before ending up in Berkeley. It was there that she developed her slide technique (she uses a socket wrench as her slide), but she didn't record until 1975, when she released I'm in Love (a compilation of earlier material, The Early Tapes 1975-1976, appeared later). After two records for Chrysalis, she recorded the instructional How to Play Blues Guitar for Grossman's Kicking Mule label, and later moved to then-fledgling Rounder, with whom she enjoyed an ongoing relationship. She toured constantly, often playing as many as 250 dates in a year, which kept her away from her family -- she'd married and begun having children in the early '70s -- but developed her reputation as a strong, vibrant live performer, and one of the best players of old country blues in America.

In 1987, the best of Block's Rounder cuts were compiled on Best Blues & Originals, which, as it said, featured her interpretations of blues classics and some of her own material. Two of the tracks, released as singles in Belgium and Holland, became gold records. In addition to her regular albums, Block made a series of instructional records and videos, as well as a children's record, Color Me Wild. Although she had been performing for a long time, the plaudits didn't really begin until 1992, when she won a NAIRD Award for Ain't I a Woman, a feat repeated in 1994 and 1997. In 1996, she began winning W.C. Handy Awards, first for Best Traditional Album (When a Woman Gets the Blues), and in 1997 and 1998 for Best Traditional Blues Female Artist. In 1997 she was elected to the CAMA Hall of Fame, and in 1999 she received yet another Handy Award, for Best Acoustic Blues Album (Confessions of a Blues Singer).

Throughout the '90s and into the 21st century, Block continued to tour, taking advantage of her growing popularity in Europe and Scandinavia. She was often accompanied by her son, Jordan Block Valdina, a singer and multi-instrumentalist who has also played on her albums, though he left the group after 2002's I'm Every Woman to pursue a career in designing eco-friendly buildings and energy systems. In 2003, after a long tenure with Rounder Records, Block struck a new deal with Telarc, and released two albums with the label, 2003's Last Fair Deal and 2005's From the Dust. In 2006, Block released The Lady and Mr. Johnson, a one-off release for Rykodisc that found her interpreting the songs of country blues legend Robert Johnson, with the blessings of Johnson's family. The album was a precursor to what Block called "The Mentor Series," a series of albums in which she devoted an entire disc to performing the work of a noted blues artist she had worked with in her early days. The first "Mentor" album, released by Stony Plain Records in 2008, was Blues Walkin' Like a Man: A Tribute to Son House. It was followed by 2011's Shake 'Em on Down: A Tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell, 2012's I Belong to the Band: A Tribute to Rev. Gary Davis, 2013's Avalon: A Tribute to Mississippi John Hurt, and 2014's Hard Luck Child: A Tribute to Skip James. In 2011, Block published her autobiography, When a Woman Gets the Blues, and in 2014 she announced plans for a special tour in 2015 she called Spirit and the Blues, in which she would perform in tandem with the Straightway Ministries Choir of Utica, and MS, a gospel group led by Elder Steven Johnson, the grandson of Robert Johnson. ~ Chris Nickson
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Avalon: A Tribute to Mississippi John Hurt

1. Everybody Loves John

2. Avalon

3. Candy Man

4. Frankie & Albert

5. Got the Blues Can't Be Satisfied

6. Louis Collins

7. Richland Woman Blues

8. Spike Driver Blues

9. Stagolee

10. Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor

11. Pay Day

x

Track List: Shake 'em On Down

1. Steady Freddy

2. Mississippi Man

3. Kokomo Blues

5. What's The Matter Now

6. Shake 'em On Down

7. Worried Mind

8. The Man That I'm Lovin'

9. Ancestral Home

10. The Breadline

12. Write Me A Few Of Your Lines

x

Track List: Blues Walkin' Like A Man

1. My Black Mama

2. Down Hearted Blues

3. Preachin' Blues

4. Jinx Blues

5. Dry Spell Blues

6. Shettland Pony Blues

7. Death Letter

8. Country Farm Blues

9. Grinnin' In Your Face

10. Low Down Dirty Dog Blues

11. Depot Blues

12. Goverment Fleet Blues

13. I Wanna Go Home On The Morning Train

x

Track List: The Lady And Mr. Johnson

1. Cross Road Blues

2. Preaching Blues (Up Jumped The Devil)

3. Milkcow's Calf Blues

4. Walking Blues

5. 32-20 Blues

6. Rambling On My Mind

7. Terraplane Blues

8. Me And The Devil Blues

9. Last Fair Deal Gone Down

10. Come In My Kitchen

11. Hellhound On My Trail

12. If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day

13. Kind Hearted Woman Blues

x

Track List: Last Fair Deal

1. Gone Again

2. Sookie Sookie

3. County Farm Blues

4. Last Fair Deal Gone Down

5. Declare

6. Cry Out Loud

7. Amazing Grace

8. Traveling Riverside Blues

9. Mama's Stray Baby

10. Hallelu, Hallelu

11. Two Places At A Table

12. Awesome Love

13. Look What The Lord Has Done

14. Old Friends

x

Track List: Confessions Of A Blues Singer

1. If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day

2. Ramblin' On My Mind

3. Kassie Jones

4. I Am In The Heavenly Way

5. Statesboro Blues

6. Long Way From Home

7. Bo Weavil Blues

8. I'll Go With Him

9. Titanic (When The Great Ship Went Down)

10. Silver Slide Moan

11. Mother Marian

12. Life Song

x

Track List: Gone Woman Blues: The Country Blues Collection

1. Big Road Blues

2. Preaching Blues

3. Joliet Bound

4. Maggie Campbell

5. Hellhound On My Trail

6. Bye Bye Blues

7. Gone Woman Blues

8. Peavine Blues

9. Rolling Log

10. I Let My Daddy Do That

11. Tallahatchie Blues

12. Tain't Long Fo Day

13. Terraplane Blues

14. Come On In My Kitchen

15. Be Ready When He Comes

16. Cypress Grove

17. Railroadin' Some

18. Hawkins Blues

19. Cool Drink Of Water

20. Do Your Duty

21. Rowdy Blues

22. On The Wall

23. Devil Got My Man

24. Take My Heart Again

x

Track List: Ain't I A Woman

1. Silver Wings

2. Faithless World

3. Sisters

4. Ain't I A Woman

5. Come On In My Kitchen

6. Rolling Log

7. Maggie Cambell

8. Never Called Your Name

9. Road To Mexico

10. Cool Drink Of Water

11. Walk In Jerusalem

x

Track List: Mama's Blues

1. Terraplane Blues

2. Bye Bye Blues

3. Big Road Blues

4. Do Your Duty

5. The Spirit Returns

6. Got To Shine

7. Mama's Blues

8. Ain't No Shame

9. Hawkins Blues

10. Weepin' Willow Blues

11. Sing Good News

x

Track List: The Early Tapes (1975-1976)

1. Canned Heat

2. Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out

3. Three Is A Crowd

4. Why Should I Be Lonely

5. Mississippi Blues

6. Lonesome Gal

7. Strong And Lasting Kind

8. Powder Rag

9. Blues Again

10. Lovin' Good Dream

11. You Broke My Heart

x

Track List: Best Blues And Originals

1. Walkin' Blues

2. Travelin' Blues

3. Got To Have You Be My Man

4. The Water Is Wide

5. Crossroad Blues

6. Ain't No Way to Do

7. Catastrophe Rag

8. Lovin' Fool

9. Sit Down On The Banks

10. God's Gift To Women

11. The Golden Vanity

12. El Vuelo Del Alma (For Edgar)

13. Future Blues

14. M & O Blues

15. Foreign Lander

16. Moon's Going Down

17. Send The Man Back Home

18. Lovin' Whiskey

19. Gypsie Boy

20. Goin' Back To The Country

x

Track List: I Belong To The Band: A Tribute To Rev. Gary Davis

1. Samson & Delilah

2. Goin' To Sit Down On The Banks Of The River

3. Let Us Get Together Right Down Here

4. I Belong To The Band

5. Lord, I Feel Just Like Goin' On

6. Lo, I Be With You Always

7. Pure Religion

8. Twelve Gates To The City

9. Great Change Since I've Been Born

10. I Am The Light Of This World

11. Death Don't Have No Mercy

Comments

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Had the opportunity to have seen Rory @ Long beach blues festival years back.�������
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See Rory on July 11th at Westerville (Ohio) Music & Arts Festival.
Westervillec h a m b e r . c o m
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Great tunes
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joto73
My bride and I were fortunate to hear her live in Marietta Ohio thanks to BJFMS, blues jazz folk music society. See BJFMS dot something. I'm guessing ten or so years ago. Rory is good.
Report as inappropriate
girl, you can sing it, but you havent lived it. great voice. weston vance. Vance mississippi
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Love her. Really. From The Dust cover art, though...hat e . Wow, hate. Whew. Thank God she's got oodles of BAD-ASSERY to make up for it!
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I met Rory in little barn club , Stone Mtn Art Center, Brownfield Maine. she was soooo sweet and played her heart out. Great storyteller, awesome blues voice and all around nice person too. My girlfriend is still Jealous at how I drop whatever I'm doin' and stop to listen with both Ears wide open whenever Rory reaches my ears...and let's face it...She's super Hot too..
Report as inappropriate
Beautiful Voice!!!! OMG!!
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Mmmm...good!
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Tonight's the first time I've heard her, n she is super good~
Report as inappropriate
She is incredible to see live!
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Rory gives a fresh,clean, version of the songs she does,, love the slide and stetch she allows on each song,,, would love to see her live!!!
Report as inappropriate
She is awesome. I can hear Mississippi John in there, for shore!
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kevin32361
She was at Wheatland Music Festival in Michigan this year, very impressive.
Report as inappropriate
fab song: "death letter"
Report as inappropriate
haven't heard a lot about her but this song is really FINE.
Report as inappropriate
I have a friend named Rory, and it's a boy.
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Love Rory!!!
Report as inappropriate
I love her music. true talent.keep on baby

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