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Rory Block: A Woman’s Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith

C. Michael Bailey By

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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.

Title: A Woman’s Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Stoney Plain Records

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