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RORY BLOCK

SHAKE 'EM ON DOWN- A TRIBUTE TO MISSISSIPPI FRED MCDOWELL

2011-04-05

After taking on the legacy of Robert Johnson and Son House Rory Block turns her attention to Mississippi Fred McDowell. Unlike those earlier efforts, which were exclusively limited to Block’s take on the artist’s own work, this set includes not only McDowell’s tunes but a number of originals that are inspired by McDowell’s hard driving style with Block’s lyrics and music. "Steady Freddy" is Block’s biography of McDowell’s evolution into a bluesman including her guess as to the origin of his oft-repeated phrase “I don’t play no rock ‘n’ roll” while "Mississippi Man" is Block’s autobiographical tale about her first encounter with McDowell when she was a 15 year old runaway who became smitten with him and his blues. "Shake ‘Em On Down" is sexy and salacious with Block’s layered vocals adding a girl group flavor. "Good Morning Little School Girl" gets gender flipped by Block and will have some wondering if she’s a dangerous old cougar in search of young prey. As she explains in the liner notes she has no such tastes but simply tried to get across a point of view from another era where today’s taboos were once the accepted norm. "Ancestral Home" stretches furthest from McDowell’s blues by skipping back to his roots for a world beat inspired take on his family being taken into slavery. One of the hardest hitting tracks here is "The Breadline" which uses classic McDowell riffs to propel Block’s timely tale of being on the wrong side of the economic line while looking up at the fat cats on the other side. Block spits out the lyrics with a passion that makes it clear that her anger has deep roots and isn’t just an abstract take on social justice. The set closes out with the raw "Write Me A Few of Your Lines" which gets its power from not only the driving guitar groove but Block’s edgy vocals. Overall, another fine addition to Block’s growing catalog of tribute discs to early bluesmen. Smitty

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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