Album Reviews

Music You Don't Know You Like Yet

RORY BLOCK

HARD LUCK CHILD- A TRIBUTE TO SKIP JAMES

2014-10-13

Rory Block has spent the last several years serving up tributes to her early influences including Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Rev. Gary Davis and Mississippi John Hurt. She caps off the history lesson with this tribute to Skip James. Like the other efforts, the 10 cuts here are delivered by Block with a preservationist's skill, a fan's passion and a master's touch. With nothing but her guitar and voice Block transports you back in time when the blues weren't always the party jam soundtrack to a beer soaked club but were instead a way to channel fear, "Cypress Grove Blues", lament the inability to catch a break, "Hard Luck Child", and rail against times so hard they could push you to the killing floor, "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues". While many of the lyrics are infused with despair, the tunes themselves can be buoyant as on the light, jazzy, "Little Cow and Calf Is Gonna Die Blues" where Block's vocals have a lift to them that belie the somber subject matter and on the gospel work out, "Jesus Is a Mighty Good Leader", where you can't help but be lifted by her multi-layered vocals. Likewise, "I'm So Glad" gets a buoyant acoustic treatment that reclaims it from the heavy crunch given to it on covers by Cream and Deep Purple. The sole original, "Nehemiah James", is Block's brief biography of James, the battles he fought reconciling the blues with his gospel roots, and ultimately the long lasting seeds he planted into modern blues. Haunting, evocative, and hard-hitting. Somewhere Skip James is finally smiling. Smitty

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Compiled by the WYCE Journalism Club

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