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Bio

Heralded as “a living landmark” (Berkeley Express), “a national treasure” (Guitar Extra), and “one of the greatest living acoustic blues artists” (Blues Revue), Rory Block has committed her life and her career to preserving the Delta blues tradition and bringing it to life for 21st century audiences around the world. A traditionalist and an innovator at the same time, she wields a fiery and haunting guitar and vocal style that redefines the boundaries of acoustic blues and folk. The New York Times declared: “Her playing is perfect, her singing otherworldly as she wrestles with ghosts, shadows and legends.”

Born in Princeton, NJ, Aurora “Rory” Block grew up in Manhattan a family with Bohemian leanings. Her father owned a Greenwich Village sandal shop, where musicians like Bob Dylan, Maria Muldaur and John Sebastian all made occasional appearances. The rich and diverse Village scene was a constant influence on her cultural sensibilities. She was playing guitar by age ten, and by her early teens she was sitting in on the Sunday jam sessions in Washington Square Park.

During these years, her life was touched – and profoundly changed – by personal encounters with some of the earliest and most influential Delta blues masters of the 20th century. She made frequent visits to the Bronx, where she learned her first lessons in blues and gospel music from the Reverend Gary Davis. She swapped stories and guitar licks with seminal bluesman Son House, Robert Johnson’s mentor (“He kept asking, ‘Where did she learn to play like this?’”). She visited Skip James in the hospital after his cancer surgery. She traveled to Washington, DC, to visit with Mississippi John Hurt and absorb first-hand his technique and his creativity.

“This period seemed to last forever,” Block Recalls nearly forty years later.” I now realize how lucky I was to be there, in the right place at the right time. I thought everyone knew these incredible men, these blues geniuses who wrote the book. I later realized how fleeting it was, and how even more precious.”

By the time she was in high school, her family had splintered in different directions. With nothing holding her down, she left home at 15 with her guitar and a few friends – heading for California on a trip marked by numerous detours and stops in small towns. Along he way, she picked her way through a vast catalog of country blues songs and took her first steps in developing a fingerpicking and slide guitar style that would eventually be her trademark.

She recorded an instructional record called How To Play Blues Guitar in the mid-60s (she was billed as Sunshine Kate on the original recording), but then took a decade off from music to start a family. In the mid- and late ‘70s, she made a few records that ran counter to her inherent blues instincts, and the result was frustration. “Eventually disgusted with trying to accommodate a business which never seemed to accept me or be satisfied with my efforts,” she says, “I gave up totally and went back to the blues.” The result was a record deal with the Boston-based Rounder label, which released her High Heeled Blues in 1981. Rolling Stone referred to the album as “some of the most singular and affecting country blues anyone – man or woman, black or white, old or young – has cut in recent years.”

Back in a groove that felt comfortable and fulfilling, Block threw herself headlong into an ambitious touring schedule that helped hone her technical and vocal skills to a razor’s edge, and at the same time nurture a distinctive voice as a songwriter. She stayed with Rounder for the next two decades, making records that simultaneously indulged her affinity for traditional country blues and served as a platform for her own formidable songwriting talents.

The world finally started taking notice in the early 1990s, and Block scored numerous awards throughout the decade. Her visibility overseas increased dramatically when Best Blues and Originals, fueled by the single “Lovin' Whiskey,” went gold in parts of Europe. She brought home Blues Music Awards four years in a row – two for Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year, and two for Best Acoustic Blues Album of the Year. Then in 1997, she won the Blues Music Award for The Lady and Mr. Johnson, a tribute to Robert Johnson, taking home Acoustic Album of the Year.

Today, after more than twenty highly acclaimed releases and five Blues Music Awards, Block is at the absolute height of her creative powers, bringing a world full of life lessons to bear on what she calls “a total celebration of my beloved instrument and best friend, the guitar.” Her newest project, titled "The Mentor Series," is a growing collection of tribute albums to the blues masters she knew in person. Her recent release "Blues Walkin’ Like A Man/A Tribute to Son House," will be followed by "Shake Em On Down/A Tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell," due out in early 2011 on the Stony Plain label. 

Resume

AWARDS

2007 BLUES MUSIC AWARD winner: The Lady and Mr Johnson
ACOUSTIC ALBUM OF THE YEAR

May 1999 WC Handy Award winner: Confessions Of A Blues Singer
BEST ACOUSTIC BLUES ALBUM OF THE YEAR

1998-99 Crossroads Music Awards winner
Blues Bronze Star Award: Confessions Of A Blues Singer

May 1998 WC Handy Award winner:
TRADITIONAL BLUES FEMALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR

TROPHEES FRANCE BLUES 98 -
INTERNATIONAL GUITARISTE ACOUSTIQUE

May 1997 WC Handy Award winner:
TRADITIONAL BLUES FEMALE ARTIST OF THE YEAR

1997 NAIRD Award winner: Tornado
BEST ADULT CONTEMPORARY ALBUM OF THE YEAR

1997 CAMA HALL OF FAME inductee

May 1996 WC Handy Award Winner: When A Woman Gets The Blues
BEST ACOUSTIC BLUES ALBUM OF THE YEAR

1994 NAIRD Award winner: Angel Of Mercy
BEST ADULT CONTEMPORARY ALBUM OF THE YEAR

1992 NAIRD Award winner Ain't I A Woman
ADULT CONTEMPORARY Honorable mention



REVIEWS

"Her playing is perfect, her singing otherworldly as she wrestles with ghosts, shadows and legends."
THE NEW YORK TIMES

"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."
GUITAR EXTRA

"A living landmark, the finest contemporary purveyor of the Mississippi Delta Country Blues tradition of which (Robert) Johnson was the leading exponent."
BERKELEY EXPRESS

"... 'Confessions of a Blues Singer' provides a heavy dose of the real, raw Delta blues... stark and naked in its intensity... an acoustic tour de force... This album proves that Rory Block is one of the greatest living acoustic blues artists and that she can hold her own with the legends who inspired her."
BLUES REVUE

"If you like music steeped in tradition and genuine feeling, this is your woman."
PEOPLE MAGAZINE

"Some of the most singular and affecting country blues anyone, man or woman, black or white, old or young has cut in recent years."
ROLLING STONE

"Rory Block has been an inspiration to me since we started out years ago. Her singing, playing and songwriting are some of the most soulful in traditional and modern blues."
BONNIE RAITT



TV SHOWS

QVC: LIVE PERFORMANCE

NBC: WEEKEND TODAY IN NEW YORK

AUSTIN CITY LIMITS

CNN: SHOWBIZ TODAY

CBS: CBS NIGHTWATCH

ABC: "You Deserve The Best" from Angel Of Mercy CD, in sound track of: ABOUT US; THE DIGNITY OF CHILDREN with Opray Winfrey



RADIO SHOWS

Prairie Home Companion, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Mountain Stage, E Town and countless live concert broadcasts worldwide.



PRODUCTIONS

GAYE ADEGBALOLA - Bitter Sweet Blues
Alligator Records ALCD 4870

RICK ROBBINS - Walkin' Down The Line
Seeds Of Man Records



MOVIES

Performance in The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame & Museum's
American Music Masters Series
HELLHOUNDS ON MY TRAIL; The Afterlife of Robert Johnson
A Robert Mugge Film



ENDORSEMENTS

Martin Guitars
Martin Guitar Strings
Shubb Capos



TOURS

Rory maintains an intensive worldwide solo touring schedule that includes art centers, theaters, listening rooms and major festivals such as The San Francisco Blues Festival, The Chicago Blues Festival, The Telluride Blues Festival, The Philadelphia Folk Festival, Memphis In May, The Edmonton Folk Festival, The Montreal Jazz Festival, The Womad Festival in England, The Pinkpop Festival in Holland, The Notodden Blues Festival in Norway, The Peer Festival in Belgium, and The RAWA Festival in Poland, and the Cognac Blues Festival in France. Rory was one of the featured guitarists in the prestigious Columbia Artist Management GUITAR SUMMIT tours, which presented guitar masters in various fields. Rory toured with Michael Hedges, Stanley Jordan, Herb Ellis and Sharon Isbin.



RECORDED WITH

Keb Mo, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Wonder, Taj Mahal, Mark Knopfler, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Jorma Kaukonen, Livingston Taylor, Paul Shaffer, John Sebastian, David Lindley and others



PERFORMED WITH

Keb Mo, Bonnie Raitt, The Band (Woodstock '94 with Bruce Hornsby & Bob Weir), Jorma Kaukonen, Taj Mahal, Koko Taylor, Michael Hedges, Stanley Jordan, Herb Ellis and others



INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEOS, CDS & CASSETTES

The Power of Delta Blues Guitar 2 video set

The Guitar of Rory Block Video 1- blues video 2-originals

Rory Block Teaches Classics of Country Blues Guitar CD with 32 page music plus tablature book

Classics of Country Blues Guitar 6 audio cassette series



GOLD RECORD IN HOLLAND (BENELUX territories):

Best Blues & Originals

Hit singles: "Lovin' Whiskey" & " Gypsie Boy" w/ Stevie Wonder



DISCOGRAPHY

Country Blues Guitar - Rare Archival Recordings 1963-1971

Guitar Workshop SGGW103

2008
Blues Walkin' Like A Man: A Tribute to Son House Stony Plain SPCD1329 2008
The Lady and Mr Johnson Rykodisc RCD10872 2006
From The Dust Telarc 83614 2005
Sisters and Brothers Telarc-8358 2004
Last Fair Deal Telarc 83593 2003
I'm Every Woman Rounder 11661-3174-2 2002
Confessions of a Blues Singer Rounder 11661-3154-2 1998
The Early Tapes 1975-1976 Alcazar 111 1997
Gone Woman Blues Rounder 11575 1997
Tornado Rounder 3140 1996

Turning Point

Munich 145 1995
When a Woman Gets The Blues Rounder 3139 1995
Women in (E)motion

Tradition & Moderne

1994
Angel of Mercy Rounder 3126 1994
Ain't I A Woman Rounder 3120 1992
Mama Blues Rounder 3117 1991
Color Me Wild Alcazar 103 1990
Best Blues & Originals Rounder 11525 1987
House of Hearts Rounder 3104 1987
I've Got A Rock In My Sock
Rounder 3097 1986
Rhinestones & Steel Strings Rounder 3085 1984
Blue Horizon Rounder 3073 1983
High Heeled Blues Rounder 3061 1981

You're the One

Chrysalis 1233

1979

Intoxication, So Bitter Sweet

Chrysalis 1157

1977

Rory Block (I'm in Love)

Blue Goose 2022 1976

Rory Block

RCA Victor 0733 1975

How to Play Blues Guitar

Elektra 324 1967

Old Time Banjo Project

Elektra EKS-7276 1964

MUSIC VIDEOS

A Father And Two Sons (Feature length music video)
Winner of CINE 1994 Golden Eagle Award for Composition & Performance
Director: Merle Worth