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Rory Block
The Lady And Mr. Johnson
Rykodisc
www.rykodisc.com


It seems a long time since Rory Block has released a new record. Perhaps it is simply that I am a bit out of the loop with the current blues scene, as I've been enmeshed in so much other music lately… but I digress. On The Lady And Mr. Johnson, Ms. Block has put together a fantastic, earthy collection of songs written by or originally attributed to… yep, you guessed it, Robert Johnson. Block does a wonderful job of interpreting these old standards and giving them her own voice, making them sparkle and shine as if brand new.

The record starts where most modern blues aficionados agree that modern blues had its origination, "Cross Road Blues". Block turns in a gritty and soulful performance, playing the slide guitar with a tenacity and flavor with which only she could imbue it. "Milkcow's Blues" finds Block in fine form, both on the guitar and in her vocal delivery. Her voice is rich and warm, while slipping easily into falsettos that impress, making the track one of the finest modern blues interpretations I've heard. "Ramblin' On My Mind" is brilliantly played, Block's guitar work showing the minute levels of finesse and soul of which she is capable. Block's playing on "Last Fair Deal Gone Down" is simply amazing, filled with rhythmic hop and intensity, nicely offsetting her thick and sultry vocals. By the time the classic "Come In My Kitchen" hits the speakers, there is no doubt left that Rory Block stands among the masters of blues guitar players, as her slide licks snake their way in the brain, slipping around and worming their way into your soul. The performance is inspired, truly paying homage to the finest bluesman the world has probably ever known.

There is something magical about a virtuoso performer stepping away from a band dynamic and stretching out on his/her own in a naked musical way, recording a record simply one instrument and voice. The arrangements here are fairly traditional, based on songs that have a majesty of their own, but Rory Block infuses each of Robert Johnson's songs with her own voice, attitude and soul… making The Lady And Mr. Johnson a masterwork of contemporary bluesmanship… or blueswomanship, as this case shows… and I don't think she probably sold her soul for the chance at it.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. Cross Road Blues
2. Preaching Blues (Up Jumped The Devil)
3. Milkcow's Blues
4. Walkin' Blues
5. 32-20 Blues
6. Ramblin' 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


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