Rory Block – Prove It To Me
''Prove It On Me'' is the second album from Rory Block's new ''Power Women of the Blues'' series.
This recording celebrates the songs of nine ground-breaking female blues artists, includes one of her own originals. Prove It On Me presents Rory's unique take on songs from phenomenal female performers and songwriters: Arizona Dranes, Elvie Thomas Merline Johnson, Madlyn Davis, Helen Humes, Rosetta Howard, Lottie Kimbrough, Gertrude ''Ma'' Rainey and Memphis Minnie. Rory's goal for this release was to spotlight some of the more obscure names of the genre, some of whom did not become widely known ''despite their immense talent''. All songs are given the ''Rory Block Band'' treatment, while showcasing their own individual style and contribution to the genre.
''For over a century, women of the blues have prevailed to record and perform their music. I hope we will do them justice by continuing to get to know them better today, as we celebrate their names more every year.'' - Rory Block
Prove It On Me was produced by Rory Block and Rob Davis. All vocals on the new disc are by Rory Block, who also played all the guitar and bass parts on her Signature Model Martin Guitars. In addition, all drums and percussion heard on the new disc - guitar bongos, hat boxes, plastic storage tubs, oatmeal boxes and wooden spoons - were played by Rory.
1. He May Be Your Man - 4:09 2. Its Red Hot - 3:32 3. If You're A Viper - 4:10 4. Prove It On Me - 3:15 5. I Shall Wear A Crown - 4:10 6. Eagles - 4:26 7. Wayward Girl Blues - 4:41 8. In My Girlish Days - 3:21 9. Milk Man Blues - 4:50 10. Motherless Child - 4:51
Rory Block (vocals, guitar, guitar banjo, spoons, drums, percussion)
The songs on Rory Block's Prove It on Me express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and larger American society.
Rory Block is one of America's greatest performing blues historians. Her Greenwich Village upbringing provided her with a solid foundation as she met many contemporary folk-blues revivalists, including Peter Rowan, Maria Muldaur, and John Sebastian. Even as a child, Block wasn't satisfied just watching others but picked up the guitar and played and sung herself. She hit the road at 15 years of age to seek out the greats and perform for others. Despite many gaps caused by personal issues and recording squabbles, she has a substantial discography and has received many awards for her blues discs.
For the last 15 or so years, Block has worked at honoring those that came before her. She created what she calls her "Mentor Series", where she offered her album-length interpretations of artists she met back in her early days, including Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Reverend Gary Davis, Skip James, Bukka White, and Mississippi John Hurt. This is a who's who of the country blues masters. The fact that she learned directly from all of them speaks volumes about her credibility and talent.
In 2018 she decided to pay tribute to blues women and began by releasing an album of Bessie Smith (A Woman's Soul). Block has just issued her second record in the series, Prove It on Me, which contains nine tracks of classic tracks by female blues artists from the relatively obscure (Rosetta Howard, Arizona Dranes) to the more well-known (Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Memphis Minnie) as well as one self-penned gem ("Eagles"). The songs range from the bawdy to the religious and convey the diversity of elements within the blues tradition. They share one thing in common: they express the strength of female artists despite their circumstances as second class citizens in both the musical world and the larger American society. They are proud women who refuse to accept their social status as inferior beings.
Block had a treasure trove of material to choose from, and she selected some tasty nuggets. There's not a bad song on the album, and each one is performed masterly with grit and gumption. Block provides all the vocals, all the guitar work—including slide and playing the bass notes on the guitar, drums, and percussion. Block is literally a one-woman band, in addition to co-producing the disc with Rob Davis. Highlights include the slithering, sexy "It's Red Hot" (Madilyn Davis), the solemn "Motherless Child" (Elvie Thomas), the gospel "Wayward Girl" (Lottie Kimbrough) and the boisterous "He May Be Your Man" (Helen Hume).
Block also does a bittersweet version of the most well-known song here, Memphis Minnie's "In My Girlish Days". Block doesn't play it coy but instead looks back coolly at her past. That matches well with Block's autobiographical contribution. "Eagles" looks at past hardships without saccharine nostalgia. Instead, she expresses pride in being a survivor. She has more than endured. She has found peace through her music. Block may not be the first person to find a home in the blues. There's room enough for all, she notes, and she invites us in.
2. Bluestownmusic.nl - Fons Delemarre
Soms lijkt het wel of Rory Block (1949) altijd de last van Lovin’ Whiskey heeft moeten meetorsen. Het nummer is zó iconisch, dat het bijna onmogelijk is het te overtreffen. Lang heeft Block het geprobeerd, maar een aantal jaren geleden heeft ze het roer omgegooid. In plaats van schrijven van eigen nummers, is ze haar roots gaan exploreren.
Om precies te zijn: de roots van de akoestische blues. Een rits van prachtige albums, The Mentor Series, was het gevolg.
2006: ‘The Lady and Mr. Johnson, a Tribute to Robert Johnson’
2008: ‘Blues Walkin’ Like a Man, a Tribute to Son House’
2011: ‘Shake ‘Em On Down, a Tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell’
2012: ‘I Belong to the Band, a Tribute to Rev. Gary Davis’
2013: ‘Avalon, a Tribute to Mississippi John Hurt’
2014: ‘Hard Luck Child, a Tribute to Skip James’
2016: ‘Keepin’ Outta Trouble, a Tribute to Bukka White’
En nu is er ‘Prove It On Me’, deel twee in de driedelige serie ‘Power Women Of The Blues’. Deel één, ‘A Woman’s Soul, a Tribute to Bessie Smith’, verscheen in 2018. ‘
Prove It On Me’ is, net zoals de vorige tributes, ambitieus van opzet. In dit geval gaat Block zó ver dat ze alles zelf doet. Ze speelt alle gitaren, inclusief de lead op slide, zingt alle vocals (lead en backing) en neemt alle percussie voor haar rekening. Bij dat laatste gebruikt ze ook minder voor de hand liggende zaken als een hoed of een pack cruesli.
Toch krijgen haar vertolkingen de zo eigen en kenmerkende Rory Block sound en feel mee, zoals die klinkt in –inderdaad- het eerder genoemde Lovin’ Whiskey.
Alle nummers op het nieuwe album, behalve Eagles, zijn covers van in meer of mindere mate obscure nummers van soms bekende -vaker nog: onbekende- vrouwelijke bluesmuzikanten.
Titelnummer Prove It On Me werd ooit gezongen door Ma Rainey, Memphis Minnie zong ‘In My Girlish Days’ en Helen Humes (in 1938 vervanger van Billie Holiday in The Count Basie Orchestra) zong ooit ‘He May Be Your Man’.
De blinde gospelzangeres Arizona Dranes had de bekende gospel ‘I Shall Wear A Crown’ op haar repertoire staan en de uit Chicago afkomstige Viper (adder) Girl Rosetta Howard zong ooit ‘If You’re A Viper’. Over de titel van dat nummer nog even dit. Ergens werd dit nummer als ‘attitude dripping’ gekenmerkt. Lastig te vertalen, maar je ziet haar wel staan, met haar hoofd in haar nek (“Kom maar op! Wat mot je dan, juh?”)
Block had een specifiek doel voor ogen bij het maken van ‘Prove It On Me’. Block: “For over a century, women of the blues have prevailed to record and perform their music. I hope we will do them justice by continuing to get to know them better today, as we celebrate their names more every year.”
De Berkeley Express zei over Block: ”A living landmark, the finest contemporary purveyor of the Mississippi Delta Country Blues tradition…” Ik noem het ingetogen en integere akoestische blues. Delta Blues voor fijnproevers en liefhebbers.
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