A Tribute to Skip James
"Rory Block is back with another fine album, Hard Luck Child, the fifth in her Mentor Series... This excellent series is a must-have for any serious student of the blues.
There is no better ambassador for this music than Rory Block... This series brings the foundations of Country Blues, and rock music as well, to the next generation... Here we see Rory Block enthralled as both a fan and an artist, as she interprets James' work. She is playing the role of curator, as she presents these works not as a static part of history, but as living installations that represent James' life. In that context, Block is clearly invaluable to our understanding of our own journeys, and of American tradition as a whole, as a sort of musical one woman Smithsonian Museum. The treat for us is that these exhibits breathe.
Rock Block's technical mastery of form, and reverence for its roots is well known in blues circles. This is a woman who plays music that matters, not only to her, but to us as well... Block is here for our own good, whether the masses realize it or not. We need her, and if this were a just world, we would shower her and those contemporaries of hers that carry the banner of our collective past into the present in order to give our current struggles context and meaning.
At the very least the National Medal of Arts is in order here. In Rory Block we have a real treasure, an artist who not only loves the music, but knew its creators, and above all respects their labors with loving presentations designed to honor her forebears.
It seems common sense that before long, another artist will come along paying tribute to their mentors, and surely one of those will be a woman named Rory Block. Perhaps the word 'legend' will regain some of its meaning and weight.
Do yourself a favor and get this recording, and after you have listened to it, go back and get the others in the series. Reclaim the music that speaks to the human journey, and to your own. You owe it to yourself, and to those who labored to articulate our very common struggle."
The Listening Room
"The Mentor Series is a project that is as critically acclaimed as it is thrilling to hear... If there is a potent authenticity to Rory Block's performances of the Blues masters' material there's a reason- in her youth, she spent time with members of Blues greats... It is a remarkable album in a remarkable series."
"One of the world's finest acoustic players... Hard Luck Child, her tribute to Skip James, is a beautiful piece that captures the spirit, soul and passion of Skip James in a way that only one with a deep love not only for the music but for the man himself could capture. Few guitarists manage to capture the spirit of the old masters like Rory Block. If you like acoustic guitar with power, passion, finesse and a real flair, you'll find it in abundance here... She is a true master at what she does and has earned her seat alongside the old Masters of the blues and she does it all with a humble spirit and a deep love for the music... It doesn't get any better than this."
Rory Block is simply one of the finest living interpreters of vintage acoustic blues, a guitarist who understands both the technique and the spirit of the great country blues artists of the '20s and '30s... Block's guitar work on this album is typically splendid... engineer Rob Davis does excellent work here giving Block's guitar and vocals an intimate presence that suggests an updated, hi-fidelity version of James' 78s for Paramount."
"As an atheist, I think I may have to reconsider a few things: it appears, contrary to my assertions otherwise, that prayer does indeed have powers. After the John Hurt tribute disc by Rory Block, her fourth such venture, I'd fervently cast an appeal Heavenwards to have her continue this series of payitbacks to individual blues masters 'cause every one she issued was superb, a gem, her absolute best work. When I got Hard Luck Child in the mail the other day, I knew angels had transported it Special Delivery from the clouds to my very doorstep.
... the manner in which Block plays, sings, and emotes causes hyacinths and mangroves to rise up in the listener's mind, alligators lolling to the side, gumbo cooking on the stove, balmy heat calming down as a fat red sun heads for the horizon...
Her singing is likewise striking, beautific, and playful all rolled into one. Don't ask me to pick a favorite cut, 'cause I can't. Each track rolls off the one before it and then sets the scene for the next... In short, I'm telling you to nab not just this disc but all five, music of a rare sort and exceedingly fulfilling."
Mark S. Tucker - Fame
"The fave sexy senior of any blues fan with a pulse turns the clock back 50 years once again for another tribute to the blues masters she spent actual time with back in the 60s when she was a wild child on the run soaking it all up. Certainly another awarding winning date from Block, this rollicks with the spirit of her honoree Skip James like it's all happening real time right now. One of five of the best lessons you could get in the history of traditional blues, Block is the best teacher there is. Killer stuff that doesn't quit coming, this lone girl and her guitar underscore the meaning of less is more better than Mies Van de Rohe ever could. Hot stuff throughout."
Chris Spector - Midwest Record, Chicago, IL
"... a sure-handed confidence and a passionate resonance that bears witness to the existential insight of the man who crossed paths with a 15-year-old girl all those years ago. She clearly took the music and life lessons he imparted to heart, and this celebration of a mentor is filled with music that is both historical and vital."
Robert H. Cataliotti - Living Blues Magazine
"Nine Skip James originals... are interpreted by this exquistely talented guitar-slinging, soul-singing 65-year old blues woman from Princeton, NJ... Block ultimately reaches the deep dark underbelly of this mysterious legend successfully mixing the sacred with the profane to ferret out- and stunningly bring to life- the dichotomy of one of America's greatest blues legends."
Mike Greenblatt - Aquarian Weekly
"As always, her guitar work is immaculate, and she really captures the essence of James' playing style... exquisite guitar work... a stunning performance from beginning to end... "
Graham Clarke - Phoenix Blues Society
"One thing you will find hard to believe, is that it is just Rory Block playing all the music that you hear. In fact I do not know of any other solo artist that accomplishes this better than Rory does... exceptional authenticity... Hard Luck Child, as with all of Rory Block's exceptional albums that have made up her Mentor Series, once again offers the continuing line of masterpieces. Another extremely strong contender for Best Blues Tribute Album 2014..."
Blues Underground Network
"Hard Luck Child is the blues at its best... Rory Block, through her voice and guitar, has created another personal masterpiece that brings some forgotten music of the past back to life."
David Bowling- Cashbox
"On her latest album the multi-Blues Music Award winner pays tribute to Skip James... In Rory Block's remarkably talented fingers she caresses and alternately attacks the strings in a slide guitar virtuoso performance that brings the soul and meaning of Skip James' songs to life, as if heard for the very first time over the many decades since they were first written and performed by the man, himself."
"... a fierce, extroverted guitar player. Her slide work in particular gets a listener's blood to racing. This is pretty much everything you'd want short of James' own essential recording.
As I listen to Block's reading of Special Rider Blues-- I experience the curious sensation that my head is about to explode... Which is to say that on Hard Luck Child Block is so good she's scary."
"For a good while, now, one of the most faithful practitioners of Delta Blues has been a white woman from New Jersey. Blues troubadour Rory Block who's first record goes all the way back to 1975, has never been more full of youthful vitality when she delivered one of the finest-ever tributes to Robert Johnson... Following that, she launched her celebrated Mentor Series, each album earnest, informed salutes to other Blues giants... It's great to see the blues continue to evolve but it's important to never forget where it evolved from. Rory Block makes damned sure we don't forget; Hard Luck Child, A Tribute To Skip James illuminates the lineage back to the Mississippi Delta just as her prior five tribute albums did."
"Rory Block has won many awards and accolades from the blues community over the last few decades; her Mentor Series makes it plain to see why. She is both master and student of the country blues genre. As she says in her liner notes, "While the rest of the world was busy with modern things, I wandered down the dusty path towards the past in bare feet." A truer portrait of Block's music could not be painted... On each of the Mentor Series albums, strains of country, blues, and gospel come through Block's fingers, guitar, and voice as if she'd been selected by the blues Gods themselves to preserve and protect a disappearing tradition. What Block does here is not new, but it is masterful. She knows the terrain; she is fluent in the language."