A Woman’s Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith
Stony Plain Records
Aurora “Rory” Block spent her formative years as part of the Greenwich Village folk music scene. At the age of fourteen she was introduced to the music of the Mississippi Delta by Stefan Grossman. She made it her business to seek out, get to know, and learn from Mississippi John Hurt, the Reverend Gary Davis, Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Bukka White and Skip James. She recorded for Elektra, RCA, Blue Goose and Chrysalis before signing with Rounder Records in 1981. Between 2003 and 2005 Block released three albums on Telarc Records. In 2008 Block signed with Stony Plain Records and started her “Mentor Series” paying tribute to those Delta Blues masters that had “a profound influence on her music”. After six albums in the series and 34 overall recordings her work was done. During her career Block was nominated for twenty-three Blues Music Awards winning five times.
Block states that her life’s mission is to celebrate and honor the men and women of the blues; and that it was time to start a new series dedicated to the founding women of the music that she loves. The first chosen to be honored in her new series is Bessie Smith.
This new album is produced by Block and Bob Davis and recorded at the Aurora Studios in Chatham, N.Y. All of the songs were first recorded by Smith between the years 1923 and 1933. Block plays all guitars and bass on her Signature Model Martin guitars. She also provides all of the percussion by slapping her guitar, which she calls guitar bongos; and also makes sounds with boxes, tubs and spoons.
Block states that it’s important to mention “Bessie’s outrageously sexy material, her fearless jaw-dropping delivery, her unapologetic presentation of women as the powerfully sensual, sexual beings we know we are…Bessie’s material was never dirty, it was just plain sexy”. Lines like “I’m wild about his turnip tops, I like the way he warms my chops, and I can’t do without my Kitchen Man.” Nine more classics are included like “Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer” and “Empty Bed Blues”.
Blocks vocal delivery is true to Bessie, it’s sexy and fun. This album is among Block’s very best.