Blues guitarist and vocalist Rory Block serves up an inspired portrait of and homage to Bessie Smith on A Woman's Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith. Block has recorded several "tribute" albums, including Blues Walkin' Like a Man: A Tribute to Son House (Stoney Plain, 2008); Shake 'Em On Down: A Tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowall (Stoney Plain, 2011); I Belong to the Band: A Tribute to Rev. Gary Davis (Stoney Plain, 2012); Avalon: A Tribute to Mississippi John Hurt (Stoney Plain, 2013); Hard Luck Child: A Tribute to Skip James (Stoney Plain, 2014) and Keepin' Outta Trouble: A Tribute to Bukka White (Stoney Plain, 2016). Block's grasp on each artist's unique style is matched only by her innate ability to take this music and make it in her image. This is beyond impressive. It is stone-cold grace.
Bessie Smith is the first female artist in Block's series of tributes. Her homage is made that much more special by the fact that Block sings and plays all of the instruments on the decade's worth of intelligently selected songs from the Bessie Smith book. Block opts for Smith's sexier fare: ""Do Your Duty," "Kitchen Man," "I Need a Little Sugar in my Bowl," and "Empty Bed Blues," and all are dispensed by Block with salacious finesse, a wink, and a wicked grin. Block's slide guitar is nothing short of phenomenal. Her playing on this present album recalls Ry Cooder's landmark recording Jazz (Warner Bros., 1977). "Empty Bed Blues" is the standout piece of the collection, Block hitting her stride, summoning all of humid carnality contained in these blues. Drink deep from this well.
Track Listing: Do Your Duty; Kitchen Man; Jazzbo Brown from Memphis Town; Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer; Need a Little Sugar in
My Bowl; I’m Down in the Dumps; Black Mountain; Weeping Willow Blues; On Revival Day; Empty Bed Blues.
Personnel: Rory Block: vocals and all instruments.
There is a freedom and a sense of exhilaration in Jazz that is not found in any other music. Jazz is about finding freedom and a personal voice within a structure, and that is what
appeals to me most. I had a late start in jazz.
I was first exposed to jazz without any formal training by watching videos of Bill Evans, Chick Corea and Thelonious Monk in my 20's.
Later, I met Ahmad Jamal, Kenny Werner, Chick Corea, Martial Solal, Bernard Maury, Fred Hersh, Barry Harris, among many other musicians over the years.
The first jazz record I
bought was Keith Jarrett, The Melody at Night, with You and it is still one of the solo piano masterpiece in my view.
My advice to new listeners... Just enjoy it!
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