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REVIEWS

CD Reviews



"If you like music steeped in tradition and genuine feeling, this is your woman."
- People Magazine

"Her playing is perfect, her singing otherworldly as she wrestles with ghosts, shadows and legends."
- The New York Times

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

"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

"Today she is widely regarded as the top female interpreter and authority on traditional country blues worldwide."
- The Blues Foundation

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

"One of today's great exponents of Delta Blues guitar.. playing and singing styles so true to Delta tradition that they might have been honed on the banks of the Mississippi.. the finest effort of the guitarist's distinguished career."
- Guitar World

"Rory's superb renderings display her deep passion and instinct for historic preservation.. Her fierce acoustic attack- body pounds, potent bass-string snaps, precision rhythms- recall the great Willie Brown."
- Guitar Player

"Female sensitivity sheathed in steel.. pure thunder. She's spellbinding!"
- Cash Box


"Singing as if every syllable were filled with an explosive charge, she makes traditional blues tunes sound menacing, ecstatic, redemptive, and, most important, as if they were her own."
- Boston Phoenix

"One of America's foremost Country Blues torchbearers, she's a breathtaking slash-'n'-burn guitarist and a supremely soulful, sexy vocalist."
- Albany Times Union

"..she has created an approach that is so distinguished, so forceful and yet so subtle that it can only be called inimitable.. She's a one-in-a-million interpreter."
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"..masterful guitar playing..majestic..a one-woman chorus."
- USA Today

"Rory Block has emerged as one of the best blues performers of her generation. But her talent and musical interpretations take her way beyond this or any other single realm of expression.. This mature, passionate artist is the real deal!"
- Album Network, Burbank, CA

"Block can be counted among the 'modern' masters of the blues.."
- Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, MA

"Rory Block is not only one of the finest contemporary exponents of Country Blues guitar playing, but she is a well-rounded artist with depth, vision and feeling."
- RELIX, Brooklyn, NY


"From its first slide note to its last guitar strum, Confessions of a Blues Singer provides a heavy dose of the real, raw Delta blues... Block rips into the primal sound of the traditional folk-blues she cut her teeth on. The result is an acoustic tour de force... Block is absolutely hypnotic in her focused fervor... 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

"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


LIVE PERFORMANCE REVIEWS

"There are few experiences like being bowled over by an artistic performance. About 600 to 700 acoustic blues and folk fans experienced that wonderful feeling Sunday as Rory Block showed why she's won four WC Handy Awards in the past few years... Powerful at every twist and turn, this American woman left the stage to the kind of spontaneous standing ovation that erupts on the spur of the moment... First it was Terraplane Blues with all it's sexual innuendo percolating into an instrumental climax, which was followed by a soul-searing interpretation of If I Had Posession Over Judgement Day. If you desire some of this kind of material for your home system check out Rory Block's '98 Rounder release Confessions Of A Blues Singer... When it was all said and done this observer couldn't help but think it was one of the finest mini-concerts ever turned in at the Edmonton Folk Music Festival."
- Peter North

"Impassioned blues act New York born singer/songwriter/guitarist Rory Block, although greeted by a typical chilly, grey winter's day on her arrival at Sunderland's Ropery, didn't have her fire dampened as she almost set alight the atmosphere charged venue.

..the level of anticipation neared fever pitch as Rory Block, exponent of Delta blues in its purest form, appeared. Seated, an acoustic steel-strung guitar in hand, rocking to and fro, her high heeled shoes stomping as her fingers belted out a gut thumping beat and sound waves vibrated round the room.
..Her raw firey style, passed down by such masters as Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell and the mystical Robert Johnson, was always in evidence as the music rained down - thunderstorm fashion. Whether delivering nerve tingling, self-penned songs from her own emotional experiences or authentic unshaven heart-rending smoking interpretations of the aforementioned plus Kansas Joe McCoy, Tommy Johnson ('Canned Heat') and Buddy Boy Hawkins, this erstwhile student of the blues not only rattled along the rails but ripped some of them up.
Her pounding rhythms, the unashamed honesty, and her own standing in music (arguably best viewed by others - Bonnie Raitt citing her as being a 'great inspiration', typical of the esteem in which she's held by her contemporaries). Versions of 'Big Road Blues', 'If I Had Posession Over Judgement Day', Robert Johnson's curtain closer "Come On In My Kitchen', and with her son, the talented Jordan Valdina (for confirmation hear Rory's latest album 'Confessions Of A Blues Singer'), lending harmonica/vocal harmony on 'Gypsy Boy'. . ."
- Maurice Hope

"The woman who walked out on stage did not fit any of my stereotypes, but her music had the soulful passion of someone who had always known the blues... For such a tiny lady her stage presence and the force behind her music was quite awesome... At the end you felt almost as if you were the only one in the concert hall. She was so personal and down to earth and each song became more than a song... this woman was sheer genius... So many sounds and feelings emanated from the stage that it was hard at times to imagine only one woman on the stage. Her amazing acoustic guitar was matched by her great lyrics. Without being trite, she was able to touch deep and very human issues in her songs. When I hear music that touches my soul the way Rory Block's did, I feel like I have just won the lottery."
- Aberdeen, Scotland

CD REVIEWS

I BELONG TO THE BAND

"... liberating and exhilarating... nothing short of triumphant... she touches the guitar (and the songs themselves) with the carefree confidence of a modern-day master."
GREG VICTOR - Parcbench.com

"... uniformly top-notch... unsparingly hard-edged in its engagement with Christian celebration and blues despair. The two are fused uneasily, and to chilling effect... Block cuts deep and rises high."
Rambles.net

"A real triumph... If contemporary acoustic country blues guitar picking is your thing you gotta hear this disc, it comes with a big thumbs up from me."
PHIL WIGHT - Blues & Rhythm magazine (UK)

"... 100% on the mark... As far as I'm concerned, this is the pinacle of the woman's career... It may be that Rory Block has redefined what it means to pay proper tribute to the elder masters... hauntingly accurate, soul deep, and moving... the bar has been raised significantly..."
MARK S. TUCKER - FAME

"...considered to be the foremost female authority on playing pre-WWII country blues... unbridled passion and emotion... I Belong To The Band is one of her crowning achievements!"
SHERYL & DON CROW - NASHVILLE BLUES SOCIETY

Rory Block is one of the finest guitarists in the world, bar none... This CD is a beautiful piece, immaculately played and delivered with power, authority and a love that is obvious from beginning to end... This is gospel at its finest... A masterful guitarist and superb vocalist… a level of passion seldom captured on a recording...

BILL WILSON - BILLTOWN BLUES SOCIETY

SHAKE EM' ON DOWN

Shake ‘Em On Down is the latest in a long line of superior blues releases by Rory Block.”
DAVID BOWLING - Blog Critics

“... a subdued gem of an album... moments of inestimable beauty... equal parts lust and longing... Rory Block has brought heightened grandeur to the man's legend and legacy."
DAVID MCGEE - The Bluegrass Special

"It’s simply a killer by a player at the top of her game.  Hot stuff throughout."
CHRIS SPECTOR - Midwest Record - Chicago, IL

“The name Rory Block is synonymous with the word legend in the world of blues... She’s revered for her talents, she’s critically acclaimed...”
MUZIKREVIEWS.COM

“... yet another brilliant release from Rory Block, one that pays tribute to a Legendary Artist by an Artist who is certainly heading in the direction of legendary status, herself.”
JOHN VERMILYEA - Blues Underground Network

“Block has incredible vocal range... she digs down to the depth of her soul... she conveys so much emotion that you can believe she not only understands what the originators felt, but she’s experienced the same feelings.”
JEFF JOHNSON - Chicago Sun-Times

“Shake 'Em On Down is sexy and salacious... Block spits out the lyrics with a passion... driving guitar groove... edgy vocals... another fine addition to Block's growing catalog of tribute discs."
MARK SMITH - Bluesource.com

"She has mastered the acoustic country blues sound. Her guitar work is superior... This is a woman who continues to amaze. She has won many awards and I expect her to win more with this excellent offering."
JERRY W. HENRY - Tannehill Trader Monthly - Birmingham, AL



BLUES WALKIN' LIKE A MAN

"... as feisty, fierce and compelling as the masters she honors and interprets... Haunted and hallowed, Block's performance is nerve raw throughout, cutting vocally and instrumentally through the years, into your soul."
MIKE JURKOVIC The Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange

"... truly haunting... as deep and personal as authentic blues gets... extreme passion and depth... A most highly recommended recording..."
MICHAEL G. NASTOS All Music Guide allmusic.com

"... The tension between Block's searing guitar work and the pain in her voice is so palpable you can only echo the query made by Son himself after he first heard her perform: "Where did she learn to play like this?'... Close to the earth and close to the heart, that's Blues Walkin' Like A Man, yes indeed."
David McGee The Bluegrass Special

"... The album brims with tasty slide playing and thumping strumming, but Block's ability to vocally channel the haunting origins of this music is as moving as her guitar work."
SHAWN HAMMOND Guitar Player Magazine

"...Rory Block interprets 13 of Son House's most powerful blues songs... imbuing them with the visceral quality of the master, himself, channeling that energy through both her vocals and searing guitar playing."
Top40-charts.com

“... Block’s one of the finest acoustic blues performers going... She’s also a first-class guitar player and treats this stuff as fire and brimstone, Old Testament tablets, not to be trifled with.”
BOB MERSEREAU Telagraph Journal

"... passionate guitar playing... vocals that have been described as "otherwordly"... she is pure Americana, purveying our nation's roots music with an uncompromising passion matched by few others."
FRED ADAMS An Honest Tune anhonesttune.com

"... powerful... fiery... Blues Walkin' Like A Man is a loving tribute by Rory Block... If there's justice in the world, not only will this disc reap benefits for Ms. Block, but it will also turn on a new generation of blues fans to one of the most powerful and influential blues guitarists ever."
GRAHAM CLARKE Blues Bytes

“... a stunning new release from blues traditionalist Rory Block... amazing guitar licks and emotive, wrenching vocals...
JIM HYNES Elmore

another review by Jim Hynes:

“... otherworldly... downright sexy... posessed by that same indescribable spirit of the original Delta bluesmen... Today Rory is certainly regarded as the foremost interpreter of traditional country blues... an absolutely mesmerizing tribute.”
JIM HYNES ADC Media Guide

“...Rory Block represents blues royalty... One of the most skilled acoustic guitarists in any musical genre... vision... inspiration... a scholar’s knowledge and a poet’s approach...
REVEREND KEITH A. GORDON About.com Blues

“... With this tribute, Block has unlocked the very essence of the blues.”
MICHAEL VERITY Blues Revue

“... beautiful... harrowing... I have Son House’s “Death Letter” album (1965) on vinyl, and ‘Blues Walkin’ Like A Man’ gives the same feeling of being surrounded by uneasy ghosts... you’ll love this album... ‘Blues Walkin’ Like A Man’ is THE blues album of ‘08.”
JOHN KEREIFF rosslandradio.com Rossland, BC

"... spine-tingling... Rory Block more than honors Son House's memory: she sets the standard for acoustic blues tribute records."
ERIC STEINER Washington State Blues Society


"...what might surely be one of the highest notes of her brilliant career... immense knowledge and expertise of the Acoustic Guitar... a voice that can rival any of her peers... You will truly not see it done much better than the way Rory Block plays it."
JOHN VERMILYEA Blues Underground Network

"...a force to be reckoned with... She has become one of the world's most recognized female guitarists, musicians, and interpreters of Delta Blues... There is no one on the planet who could top the originals, period... "
BEN COX Juke Joint Soul

"... the feeling is of being in a Baptist church... a graveyard mojo of Block standing at the crossroads wearing a long black veil... Rory can sing gospel with the best of them... if you are looking for a time portal to go back into the era of levee camps and field hollers, where true acoustic blues predated electricity, Rory Block can take you there."
GARY WEEKS Illinois Blues Society IllinoisBlues.com

"... a collection of interpretations that highlight the brilliance of both the teacher and the student... channeling Bessie Smith at midnight, Block doesn't so much as sing as impart eerie invocation..."
BUZZ McCLAIN NO DEPRESSION

“Rory Block’s tribute to the blues pioneer Son House reflects an intimate and savvy awareness of her tie to a blues genius. Rather than merely paying homage to her mentor, Block performs 13 of her teacher’s songs imbued with her own brand of slashing slide guitar virtuosity and fiery vocal pyrotechnics.”
THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

"Rory Block's life-long involvement with the blues has reached a new high point with this release."
System Records systemrecords.co.uk

"Rory Block, long one of the finest contemporary interpreters of traditional Delta blues, devotes this intense and compelling CD to the songs of Son House..."
 MIKE REGENSTREIF Montreal Gazette

"Block has quietly been making some of the best music of her career the past few years."
VILLAGE RECORDS www.villagerecords.com

“... Rory Block is a brilliant, talented musician whose vocals and guitar prowess are perfectly suited to bring Son House's music to a wider audience. Do yourself a favor and check out "Blues Walkin' Like A Man" today!!
SHERYL and DON CROW Music City Blues Society

"Technically flawless... a time capsule of Son House and his music..."
Turbula Music turbula.net

"A 1965 meeting between House and the 15-year old guitar prodigy set Block rambling down the blues highway, a trip that has brought the artist international recognition and five Blues Music Awards..."
Reverend Keith A. Gordon About.com Blues

"Traditionally minded modern-day blues empress..."
Elderly Instruments www.elderly.com

LAST FAIR DEAL

"Like Jimi Hendrix’s air-raid rendition of “The StarSpangled Banner,”
you won’t believe your ears."
-Santa Monica Mirror

"Last real deal, more like it... she's got the funk... Pick, sister, pick."
-Ink19

"this is the finest album of Rory Block's long career, and yet it feels like a signpost of things to come. Last Fair Deal is potent, profound, medicine."
-All Music Guide

"...an arresting mix of sex and spirituality, sacred and profane.
It has passion and intensity, along with excellent musicianship...a guilty pleasure."
-Tuscaloosa News

"Playing with heart and soul non pareil, this is a must for the true contemporary blues fan."
-Midwest Record Recap

"This has got to be one of the most eye opening CDs that I have gotten in many a year..."
-BluzHarp.com

"...a stunning mix of covers and original material that taps the essence of Southern soul and pays homage to the masters of Delta blues."
-Goldmine



Reviews in full

"Youthful and beautiful, Aurora Block plants her flag on the summit of being the finest female traditional blues guitarist and singer. After 15-plus recordings, Ms. Block finally signs with a major label, one that allows her to play her repertoire - a collection of older country blues and her plaintive, introspective original compositions. Always present on her recordings are Robert Johnson pieces. On the title cut, Ms. Block illustrates her facile and informed slide guitar style, light years ahead of many of her contemporaries. Also showcased are her soulful, urgent vocals. These attributes are also evident on a brilliant "Traveling Riverside Blues." Ms. Block also represents Eddie "Son" House with his "County Farm Blues." But the blues is not all. "Declare" is a thoroughly modern acoustic gospel piece composed by Ms. Block and employing a small choir and the Book of Job. The same themes are addressed in the traditional "Hallelu, Hallelu" and "Look What the Lord has Done." She turns in an inspired "Amazing Grace," weaving the familiar refrain in and out of 100 years of blues instrumentals. Ms. Block is at her most sensual on the sardonic "Sookie Sookie," a tale of a cheating husband and a threadbare wife. Rory Block deserves all of the favorable attention she has received in the past number of years. She is a keen keeper of the flame, opting to perform traditional songs in a traditional manner. She does this in a way none of her male contemporaries can, from a woman's perspective - and what a perspective that is."
-C. Michael Bailey, JazzReview.com

"... Rory Block has matured into a talented, tasteful country-blues interpreter with a fine appreciation for the roots of the music. Here she pays tribute to Son House, whom she met as a teenager, with a dazzling display of guitar wizardry that would make the master proud. While the 14 tunes include only one Son original, "County Farm Blues," the spirit of the great pre-war Delta blues guitarist seems to guide the entire project. The husky-voiced native New Yorker also covers two Robert Johnson songs, "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" and "Traveling Riverside Blues." And her eight original numbers have a strong spiritual slant."
-Jeff Johnson, Chicago Sun Times

"A veteran blueswoman, Rory Block proves herself both a traditionalist and an explorer through this selection of blues classics, spiritual standards, and original material with a kindred spirit. She pays homage to her musical roots with impeccable renditions of songs associated with her late mentor Son House ("County Farm Blues") and his prize pupil Robert Johnson ("Last Fair Deal Gone Down," "Traveling Riverside Blues"). Yet she takes considerable liberties with the album's instrumental centerpiece, an all but unrecognizable version of the familiar "Amazing Grace," which here recalls Leo Kottke's aural adventurousness rather than the hymnal. The original "Declare" (inspired by the Bible's Book of Job) and the traditional "Hallelu, Hallelu" both find Block multi-tracking her vocals into the call-and-response of a full gospel choir, while "Cry Out Loud" and "Mama's Stray Baby" reflect the folkier strains of her artistry. An acoustic guitarist with a stinging slide and an understated virtuosity, she's more concerned with deep grooves than hot licks."
-Don McLeese, Amazon

"Last real deal, more like it. How Rory Block ever got so damn funky being born in Manhattan we'll never know (it probably helped that she hit the road in her teens to learn the blues) -- but however she got it, she's got the funk. Between her nimble, driving guitar and heartfelt voice she can move from "Son House (Country Farm Blues)" to "Amazing Grace" and sound compelling on both. In an age where blues artists either stick to one of two paths -- slavish recreations of old '78s or over-amped SRV cloning -- Block does neither. Instead, she uses delta blues as her vocabulary, but writes her own stories using the words of old. Last Fair Deal is an assured record that has the blues at its spiritual heart, created in equal measure of love and learning. Pick, sister, pick."
-James Mann, Ink 19

Rory Block is one of just a handful of musicians trying to keep alive the splendid music of country blues -- the music that lives at the powerful and primitive beginnings of the blues itself. She's also one of the best, whether she's re-creating the tortured essence of a Son House song, or pouring her own soul into an original composition. This album, she says, is a celebration of her "best friend," her guitar, and dedicated to House. The title track here, though, is Block's interpretation of Robert Johnson's "Last Fair Deal Gone Down," in which she expands on her usual re-creation of the song, adding a little of Rory Block to the mix. Her tribute to House is his stark "County Farm Blues," about the grim life on a prison farm. Four of the tracks here are gospel numbers, including a ravishing instrumental improvisation of "Amazing Grace, and a haunting original, "Declare." Block's original work comprises the rest of the tracks: sensitive, personal, bluesy ballads. She uses extensive liner notes to tell what the songs mean to her, and how her own creations came about. It's a nice touch. Not that Block is shy about her personal life; her Web site at www.roryblock.com is filled with her thoughts and photos. That personal touch is just what the earliest bluesmen brought to their music. That nearly a century later Block is still exploring the nuances of the same music is a tribute to their art and to hers.
-Jim White, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Rory Block has a talent and understanding of fundamental country blues that go far beyond playing covers of her favorite blues musicians. She makes them her own while still celebrating their significance. On "Last Fair Deal," Block glides her way through a 14-song acoustic set with impressive clarity. Her debut on the Telarc label, "Last Fair Deal" comes off sounding like an exclamation, as if she's saying, "I'm here doing what I love. Accept it or not." She performs eight original tunes as well as covers of Son House and Robert Johnson, two great influences on her career. Her talent on the guitar shines mostly brightly on an instrumental version of "Amazing Grace," a powerful tune in its own right but taken to new heights on Block's acoustic guitar. Block ventures into gospel on a few tracks, but she is best received with the hard-driving country blues tunes. She doubles the length of Johnson's "Last Fair Deal Gone Down," making it a free-wheeling spirit rather than being limited by its own constraints. "Sookie Sookie" shows a playful side and features a full and robust acoustic sound. "Mama's Stray Baby," "Hallelu, Hallelu," and "Look What the Lord Has Done" feature Block at her best, vocally, musically and emotionally. She really gets it. Thankfully, she's willing to share.
-Evansville Courier & Press

"New York-based Rory Block’s Last Fair Deal (her first CD for Telarc) has
her signature slide guitar and blues covers. But she also takes “Amazing
Grace” apart and stunningly reassembles it. Block’s acoustic re-imagining
is helped by a weird tuning. Like Jimi Hendrix’s air-raid rendition of “The Star
Spangled Banner,” you won’t believe your ears."
-Tony Peyser, Santa Monica Mirror

"If anyone can bring the past of the Blues to us in a vibrant, moving way, it's Rory Block. She always manages to astound any listener. Whether it is at a Blues festival or just turning on a friend that is not yet a believer, Rory makes one's jaw drop. She told me she was self-taught, so she has done more work than anyone I know already. After learning the Robert Johnson songbook, which she plays better than I've ever heard, she has accomplished the daunting task of getting the attention of the entire Blues world. She is truly an extraordinary artist. Last Fair Deal is another great album from Rory. She has some Delta, some Robert Johnson (thank you), some Gospel, some very personal songs and some traditional tunes on this CD. If you love Rory Block, you won't be surprised and if you haven't heard her, you will get mighty interested real fast. I must say that there is real sense of the spiritual on this CD that Rory has decided to share. I hope that she continues to sing the Blues with such belief and that she continues to amaze the fans with her innate abilities. Rory Block has a lot to tell us and I am grateful for that, but I don't want to get depressed about the personal stuff. I think that it IS paramount that an artist expresses how they feel. I will say that by doing Gospel songs on this CD, she has opened a door for other artists. Thank you, Rory. She's trying to tell us something here that we need to think about. I, for one, get it. Her a cappella version of "Ain't No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down," on her last album, was only the beginning. Here she does more Gospel, with "Declare," "Hallelu, Hallelu" and "Look What The Lord Has Done." The CD also has excellent liner notes about each song, direct from Rory. "County Farm Blues," by Eddie House, Jr., Robert Johnson's "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" and his "Traveling Riverside Blues" completes the Delta tunes. These really show off the extent to which Block has learned the picking and the slide guitar of the Delta. She just keeps getting better, if that's possible. There are also some Folk-type tunes, or better, original songs by Rory on this CD. "Sookie, Sookie" tells of a hard times gal, while "Cry Out Loud" is a very old song that Rory found on an old cassette she had made, then forgotten about. She revives it just fine here. She finally writes about her favorite love, her dogs, with"Mama's Stray Baby." It had to happen-she loves her dogs like they were her children. This one's about Little Beaux. I'll let the other tunes speak to you when you acquire this great CD. Suffice it to say that Rory Block has another winner and another notch in her guitar for this CD."
-Gary Miller, BluesWax.com

"Rory Block has long been one of the best, and most powerful, interpreters of traditional acoustic blues, and one of the finest contemporary songwriters rooted in the genre. On her strongest album in many years, she works solo and moves seamlessly from Delta classics like Robert Johnson’s Traveling Riverside Blues to moving original songs like Cry Out Loud, a tribute to selfless caregivers. Like many of her blues heroes, Block addresses both the Saturday night and Sunday morning sides of the music with several gospel numbers including Hallelu, Hallelu, in which her multi-tracked overdubbed voice effectively becomes a full choir. Whether she’s rattling the frets or tingling the spine with her slide, or picking out a subtle melody, Block’s guitar playing is superb throughout."
-Mike Regenstreif, The Montreal Gazette

"As we officially recognize 2003 as the Year Of The Blues", veteran artist Rory Block has devoted an entire career, celebrating the deep roots and rich history this treasured genre. Her latest release, Last Fair Deal(Telarc 2003), is a true testament to the artists personal dedication keeping the traditional blues sound alive and vibrant for future generations. With distinctive collection of highly acclaimed recordings, this latest effort is her debut the Telarc label. Last Fair Deal, is a showcase of traditional country blues, gospel standards and personal arrangements, stretching Blocks creative boundaries.
In the liner notes, she describes this new CD as a personal celebration her beloved instrument and best friend, her guitar. The growth of this relationship has developed into a true extension of the artist herself. Block refers her guitar as an "orchestra all on it’s own", a point successfully proven throughout the recording.
Last Fair Deal is a brilliant piece of work, containing 14 songs highlighting artists passionate vocals, stinging slide technique and instinctual interpretation of genre’s origins. The opening track, Gone Again" is a hard driving, high energy tune, illustrating Block’s masterful guitar genius, even showing her playful side. It begins with the roar of a Harley, she punctuates a rhythmic response, keeping pace with the engine. As the bike trails off in the distance, her slide mirrors the open road, traveling across the fretboard while enjoying the ride. The following track, "Sookie Sookie" is a slower slide piece. This soulful blues tune tells the story of a cheating husband and the turmoil caused. The aggressive slide work expresses the overall anger and frustration, while she vocally conveys the painful heartache. Next, Block honors both her musical roots and long time mentor Son House with an authentic presentation of, "County Farm Blues". She embellishes upon the delta style with such natural ease, delivring a gutsy, acoustic performance. Her emphasis remains loyal to the traditional feel, surely making the master quite proud. Two tracks also pay tribute to Robert Johnson, "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" and "Traveling Riverside Blues". Block rips into some raw, deliberate blues work. Plenty of hard driving rhythm and blistering slide, without overshadowing her distinctive vocal accents. All three tracks are pure passion and dazzling proficiency, an excellent display of this blues guitar virtuoso at her finest. Last Fair Deal, is a complete package, as the artist explores several areas of the blues genre. She ventures into a wealth of creative imagery on "Amazing Grace" and "Awesome Love", two instrumentals which sparkle with spontaneity. Each track shines with long tonal expressions, resonating inner beauty with intense emotion. Both these tracks sound improvised at times, yet very deliberate at others, as each carries a warm glow from start to finish. There’s also a spiritual presence on this new CD, as Block exercises her gospel muscle. On "Declare", both vocals and slide testify simultaneously, with Block sounding like a preacher at a Sunday morning service. The choir articulates a bright, uplifting sound with their "call and response" style, helping to drive home the message. "Look What The Lord Has Done", is another strong spiritual track with plenty of gospel and country blues overtones, celebrating the power of the Lord. Block also covers a more folk type blues on "Mama’ Stray Baby" and "Two Places At A Table". Both tracks are very introspective, as the artist shares on a very personal level. She reaches into the emotional well about love and loss almost too difficult to describe. Block opens the door just wide enough for the listener to feel her joy and sorrow, tenderness and heartache, told poignantly through the clarity of her voice and the strings of her guitar.Last Fair Deal is a wondrous blend of musical color, vivid as a rainbow after a thunderstorm. Each track, with it’s own unique style and sound, is blended together creating an amazing masterpiece.
This new CD finds Block returning home to the blues, honoring it’s tradition and venturing into it’s future. The depth emotion and artistic creativity on this new recording will have both her fans and the folks at Telarc wanting for more. Block has definitely hit this one out of the park, most certainly an impressive example of what’s yet to come."
- Pamela L. Dow, SoundWaves

I'M EVERY WOMAN

"Praise the heavens, this woman can soar with a vocal range that must hit at least seven octaves - and she can unleash a blues explosion on acoustic guitar with a slide for the fuse. The title song has enough shakin' and bakin' to burn those extra calories, but it's her stunning voice that gives you a workout through a firewalk on 2000-degree coals with blistering gospel numbers like Ain't No Grave Can Hold My Body Down. Love has found a maiden as strong as steel when someone has to take a stand and be the backbone of R&B tradition, or as delicate as silk when Rory's got the testifying need to be Talkin' Bout My Man."
-Mitch Lopate,
Gritz Magazine - Best of 2002

CONFESSIONS OF A BLUES SINGER

"From its first slide note to its last guitar strum, Confessions of a Blues Singer provides a heavy dose of the real, raw Delta blues... Block rips into the primal sound of the traditional folk-blues she cut her teeth on. The result is an acoustic tour de force... Block is absolutely hypnotic in her focused fervor... 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

GONE WOMAN BLUES

"This carefully culled compilation from five Rounder albums goes to the heart of Block's artistry: interpretations of traditional Country Blues. Robert Johnson, Charlie Patton, and Skip James are a few of the legends Block takes on with acoustic slide guitar, transforming their work into tales of her own spiritual and sexual struggles with a paint-blistering voice. The high point is her version of Son House's 'Preaching Blues,' which Block ever so gently eroticizes, turning the song's gospel call of 'I'm going to preach the blues' into a breathless, orgasmic cry. Singing as if every syllable were filled with an explosive emotional charge, she makes traditional blues tunes sound menacing, ecstatic, redemptive, and, most important, as if they were her own."
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Norman Weinstein, The Boston Phoenix

"..one of the most listenable music-history lessons yet committed to disc.. Her reworkings of three Skip James cuts are whole-soul workouts, ('Devil Got My Man,' in particular, is a dynamo), showcasing Block's vocal flexibility and dynamic upper range. Robert Johnson, too, is thrice represented, including one of his quintessential cuts, 'Hellhound On My Trail.' Block's rendition sets a modern standard for interpretation.. The vocals are some of her gutsiest and rawest, and her slurred phrasing coaxes new dark life out of Johnson's harrowing words."
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Mountain Express, Black Mountain, NC

"Block is a powerful guitarist, whether fingerpicking or easing up the fretboard with a slide, and her voice is emotionally charged. Featuring songs by such legends as Son House, Skip James, and Robert Johnson, this 24-song collection is a testament to her power as an interpreter of the genre, and her stature as one of today's premier blues artists."
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Richard Paton, The Blade, Toledo, OH

"As the winner of the 1995 WC Handy Award for the Best Acoustic Blues Album of the Year, Rory Block has received well deserved recognition for a lifetime of dedication to and love of the blues. This CD is a wonderful collection of 24 tracks compiled from five of Rory's previously released albums. This CD, and the title track 'Gone Woman Blues' from her 1996 Tornado album, is dedicated to Nicole Brown. This collection offers a great place to start for anyone who may have missed Rory's 11 previous Rounder releases, a number that humbles even me. Rory Block is a treasure, and there is gold in this CD. For proof, just listen to her haunting renditions of Nehemiah 'Skip' James' songs 'Devil Got My Man' and 'Cypress Grove.' Wow!"
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Michael "Wolf" Spicer, Music City Blues, Nashville, TN

TORNADO

"One of these days, the world is going to wake up to the greatness of Rory Block. Based on her fine new album, 'Tornado,' that day should be now. Sure, Block's music is rooted in the deep blues. And yes, she's still one of the most powerful singers and guitar players around - a power that on 'Tornado' is amplified by a band that features such guests as Paul Shaffer, Will Lee and, on one tune, vocals by Mary Chapin Carpenter. But like all great artists, Block transcends styles. That's what she does on 'Tornado,' which features mostly original, blues based music that seems to come from a place deep inside her. Most of the lyrics on 'Tornado' are about love and loss. But the passion behind those words doesn't just come from Block's cut-to-the-bone, leave-you-gasping voice or her fervent acoustic guitar playing. It comes from the religious spirit that infuses such songs as the wordless 'Gone Woman Blues.' It comes from the chilling power of lines like 'I played the woman, who loved the frozen man/A never ending waiting game that fit into your plan.' It comes from the stark beauty of evocative words like 'I saw your face in Paris, on a dark and smoky night/smoldering like a man obsessed, fear was in your eyes.' Yes, what ultimately makes Rory Block one of America's most expressive musicians is her ability to translate what we all feel into articulate, expressive song."
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Stephen Israel, Times Herald Record, Middletown, NY

"One of the most moving singer/songwriters who deals head-on with what life throws at her is Rory Block. Rory sings about love and loss, as well as pain and joy. Her music rises like the awakening of a new day, flows like a rushing river and reaches into the deepest cell of one's being. Rory indeed has suffered in her life, losing a child at an early age. Her music reflects her pain, working through the necessary grieving to a centered place of internal healing. Her voice is as powerful as her emotions, yet as sweet and gentle as an angel in flight. Rory's new CD, Tornado, reaches heights only attainable by those who dare to try. The CD combines a soulful contemporary sound with her signature acoustical blues/folk guitar work."
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Jet City Bluesletter

"..Rory Block has a problem, but it's one that most musicians would kill to be burdened with.. she's simply too talented to be contained. One of America's foremost Country Blues torchbearers, she's a breathtaking slash-'n'-burn guitarist and a supremely soulful, sexy vocalist. But while she rakes in reams of international press raves as a blues interpreter, Block's talent as a songwriter is all too often overlooked. Her new, self-produced album should help to rectify that situation without alienating longtime fans. She opens with the traditional 'Mississippi Bottom Blues' and turns Andy Barnes' 'The Last Leviathan' into a subtle but gut-wrenching vocal tour-de-force. But the focus of the album is clearly on Block's own songwriting skills, showcased by ten superb originals that range from the solo 'Gone Woman Blues' (dedicated to Nicole Brown Simpson) to sublime pop like 'Pictures Of You' to the jazz-flecked closer 'Bright Spirit.' Yes, she's got a few high-profile friends on board to help her out- Mary Chapin Carpenter, Paul Shaffer and David Lindley, to name a few- but this is Block's album all the way. And as usual, Block is brilliant."
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Greg Haymes, Times Union, Albany, NY

"Block reaches a brilliant peak on her latest release, 'Tornado,' an expansive 11-song disc that just might bring her a well-deserved breakthrough. Like her friend Mary Chapin Carpenter, (who adds vocals on the lovely 'You Didn't Mind'), Block imbues her country/pop songs with passion and pain, keeping them tied to the pathos of the blues.. At the center of 'Tornado' swirl Block's dead-on-vocals, earthy six string mastery and powerful songwriting taking the blues to new, captivating heights."
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Upper East Side Resident, NY, NY

"..she has created an approach that is so distinguished, so forceful and yet so subtle that it can only be called inimitable. She isn't a classic Delta blues singer-guitarist-songwriter. She's a one in a million interpreter of all that she values in what came before her. Her new album, 'Tornado' (Rounder), flashes across an emotional landscape that is as electrifying as its title. She ranges on it from the traditional measures of "Mississippi Bottom Blues' and 'Gone Woman Blues' to the soul-searching tenderness of 'You Didn't Mind' and 'Indian Ernie' in an easy stretch.. At her best, Block plays guitar with the dynamic impact of the grand masters and her sense of real drama never fails her. She's deeply committed to what she's doing and it shows in everything she does.."
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Jim Kelton, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"Rory Block is known as one of the greatest blues guitar players of her time. She has earned that reputation, but it is also unfairly limiting. She has also established herself as a powerful vocalist and emerged as a talented songwriter. Her music is not confined to the blues; in fact, it is difficult to describe her sound in stylistic terms.. A recording artist for the past 15 years, Rory has released her most diverse and challenging album, 'Tornado..' a stirringly personal and diverse piece of work....emotion permeates this recording. On the covers, it is evident she relates to the songs; on her originals, it is evident that she lives them. Rory Block is not attempting to craft pop songs that will show up on top 40 lists. These songs are not meant to taste sweet and then melt in your mouth, drawing you to them with cute hooks and catchy phrases. These are songs from the heart, pure and personal glimpses of a life. While they succeed on several levels, it is their emotional depth which brings the listener back time and time again. There is a truly haunting quality to these songs, as if the singer is sharing her innermost pains and joys, emotions which linger long after the music has stopped.. Rarely have I heard so much sincere and honest emotion permeate an album. I eagerly anticipate her next."
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Happenings, SW FL

"..As a mainstream 'adult-rock' album, Tornado, Block's latest Rounder Records release, is above average; as a heartfelt statement from a respected blues artist, it's a personal breakthrough. Block creates some three and four-part harmonies that will send your spine into a shivering frenzy, her material has more depth and thought than 99 percent of the stuff used as an excuse for blues-guitar wank-fests, and she proves herself to be as adept at soul and rock as she is on acoustic blues numbers.."
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Willamette Week, Portland, OR

WHEN A WOMAN GETS THE BLUES

"When A Woman Gets The Blues, Rory's latest release on Rounder Records, is a stunning collection of classic Delta tunes performed by one of the best acoustic blues musicians in the world. Rory grew up in Greenwich Village during the acoustic revival of the early 1960's and she learned her art literally at the feet of blues legends such as Son House and Reverend Gary Davis. And she learned it well. Her guitar style is passionate, often times anguished, and is as expressive as her vocals. This combination perfectly coveys the fiery emotions that underlie Country Blues. In the liner notes, Block writes how overjoyed she is to witness the resurgence of this traditional American art form. She should also take pride in the role that she has played in keeping the Country Blues flame burning brightly through those lean years, while at the same time evolving into one of its greatest creative forces.
-Brian Dempsey, 20th Century Guitar Magazine

"..a brilliant album.. Block binds the songs of House, Skip James, Charlie Patton, Blind Willie McTell and other forefathers to her own grace and fire. Her guitar echoes a simple authenticity sprung from intensive study of the masters, and her singing is its own bold, expressive creature.."
-A&E; Entertainment Almanac

"Rory Block is known for her masterful guitar work and vocals so strong, clear, and intent that the listener (or participant) is left with a few possible responses; awe, rapture, hair raising high on end.. Indeed, Rory is recognized as one of the foremost interpreters of traditional Country Blues style. When it comes to blues, this woman does not just play the blues, she declares them. Her acclaimed 1995 release When A Woman Gets The Blues received the WC Handy Award for Best Acoustic Blues Album of the Year, recognition well deserved and due.."
-Soundwave Music News