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Continuing her series of discs devoted to pillars of the early blues, acoustic guitarist Rory Block is now turning her attention to the women of the blues. This, the first in the new series, is a tribute to blues goddess Bessie Smith who fearlessly and shamelessly revealed her wants and needs, both in the bedroom and out. In an era when straight out sex talk was frowned upon Smith used all sorts of sly references to get her point across. "Kitchen Man" is a food- based ode to the particular charms of her man while "Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl" has nothing to do with sweetening her porridge." Empty Bed Blues" is a little more direct with regrets that bragging about her man’s prowess resulted in others grabbing a sample and taking him away. Even when she’s on the losing end of a relationship she gives herself a pep talk and notes that in her 60’s she’s still a tiger ready to romp, "I’m Down in the Dumps". Elsewhere, she inventories the often sorry results of a night of partying, "Gimme A Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer" and touts the prodigious skills of a horn man who can’t sing or dance but can command an audience, "Jazzbo Brown from Memphis Town". A vindictive note is struck on "Weeping Willow Blues" where she goes from being heartsick at the loss of her man to spreading the word to other women that he’ll dump them too. The gospel infused "On Revival Day" is a visit to church providing a respite from the saucy content of many of the songs. Block plays not only all the guitar and bass lines on the disc but also all of the assorted percussion including bongos, spoons and even oatmeal boxes. Her vocals are tough, assured and gritty throughout and bring Bessie Smith’s charms to a new era. Smitty

review by Mark

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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