As an atheist, I think I may have to reconsider a few things: it appears, contrary to my assertions otherwise, that prayer does indeed have powers. After the John Hurt tribute disc by Rory Block (here), her fourth such venture in homagerie, I'd fervently cast an appeal Heavenwards to have her continue this series of pay-it-backs to individual blues masters 'cause every one she issued was superb, a gem, her absolute best work. When I got Hard Luck Child in the mail the other day, I knew angels had transported it Special Delivery from the clouds to my very doorstep. Um, angels are the ones who have horns and little ol' cloven hooves, carry pitchforks, and snigger at just about everything, aren't they? I think I have it right, maybe not. And angels like atheists, right?
Hard Luck once more features Block and only Block on every cut (even, if the lack of credits otherwise is correct, the multi-voiced chorus on Jesus is a Mighty Good Leader): her guitar and her voice in a recording simultaneously wide open and intimate, so much the first aspect that some of her animals wander in and out of the studio as she's playing, and just as much the latter because what she exposes is revelatory not only of the heart of the man she's artistically enamored of here, Skip James, but also her own wellsprings and sympathetic riffs. Block met with James in the last segment of his life. She was only 15 but already harbored a deep respect for the gent, even at that tender age. He and the previous four greats in this series were the most tremendous influences on her and dictated the way her art would run.
The entirety of this CD is soulful, much of it lazy and elastic, taking its time extolling the ills and joys of life (James penned the I'm so Glad song made popular by Cream, but, as may be expected, Rory's and Skip's versions are markedly different from the one extolled by Clapton, Bruce, and Baker), but the manner in which Block plays, sings, and emotes causes hyacinths and mangroves to rise up in the listener's mind, alligators lolling to the side, gumbo cooking on the stove, balmy heat calming down as a fat red sun heads for the horizon.
Rory's stringwork is as clever and attractive as ever, simultaneously authentic while personal and subtly, and sometimes not so subtly, innovative, kind of like Bernie Pearl's reverences and updatings in his own retrospections upon the great masters (though Bernie's one of the most dutiful interpreters I've heard). Her singing is likewise striking, beatific, and playful all rolled into one. Don't ask me to pick a favorite cut, 'cause I can't. Each track rolls off the one before it and then sets the scene for the next, everything of piece even while differentiated in many respects. In short, I'm telling you to nab not just this disc but all five, music of a rare sort and exceedingly fulfilling.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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