Keepin’ Outta Trouble a tribute to Bukka White
Stony Plain Records
Rory Block hails from Princeton, NJ but spent a lot of 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. 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 including my favorite “From the Dust”. In 2008 Block signed with Stony Plain Records and started her “Mentor Series” saluting those blues masters whom have had “a profound impact on her music”.
Block has a total of twenty-one Blues Music Award nominations having won that award five times. This is Block’s 34th overall recording and sixth in her “Mentor Series”. This time she salutes “Bukka” White.
White was born Booker T. Washington “Bukka” White in November 1906 in Houston, Mississippi and named after the African-American educator and civil rights activist. White was a first cousin to B.B. King’s mother. He played slide on a Resonator guitar. White first recorded for Victor Records in 1930.
Block plays a Martin Signature OM-40 guitar named after her. All guitars and vocals heard are by Block who also adds percussion by slapping her guitar; she calls it “guitar bongos”. She also strikes various boxes with wooden spoons and salad forks. Block states that White inspired her to write new songs. Block opens the recording with two originals, the percussive title track “Keepin’ Outta Trouble” with the lyric “give the big man some room”, and “Bukka’s Day”.
Only then do we get to hear Block’s versions of White’s songs. “Aberdeen, Mississippi Blues” is the song John Fahey used to find and re-discover him. White became part of the 1960’s folk revival and died in 1977 at the age of 70 in Memphis.
“Fixin to Die Blues” written by White was recorded by Bob Dylan in 1963 and it appears on Dylan’s Columbia Records debut.
“Parchman Farm Blues” was written by White while he was serving time for assault at The Mississippi State Penitentiary and it appears in Harry Smith’s “Anthology of American Folk Music”. Other songs of White’s covered by Block are “Panama, Ltd” and “New Frisco Train”.
Block’s other originals include “Gonna Be Some Walkin Done” inspired by the guitar part from Booker’s “Jitterbug Swing”; “Spooky Rhythm” and the closer “Back to Memphis”.
Block states that not only is she grateful to the musicians who created this music that she loves but also to those who traveled the back roads and documented this art form; people like John and Alan Lomax, and Harry Smith. This is the final chapter in her series. Who or what will inspire her next?