Prove It On Me
Stony Plain Records
When Aurora “Rory” Block was fourteen she was part of the Greenwich Village folk scene. She was introduced to the music of the Mississippi Delta by Stefan Grossman. She made it her business to learn directly 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, Chrysalis, Rounder, Rykodisc and Telarc. Block signed with Stony Plain Records in 2008 and started her “Mentor Series” paying tribute to those six Delta Blues masters that influenced her. During her career Block recorded thirty-six albums and received twenty-five Blues Music Award nominations.
In 2018 Block started a new series for Stony Plain honoring the “Power Women of the Blues” by releasing “A Woman’s Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith”; resulting in her winning her sixth Blues Music Award as 2019’s “Acoustic Artist of the Year”. On “Prove It On Me” Block “decided to celebrate some of the great female artists who were not as well-known as Bessie Smith with the obvious exception of Ma Rainey and Memphis Minnie” and introduces us to “women who got lost in the rewriting of a musical history that figuratively buried some of the best female singers of the 1920’s and ‘30’s”. The album is co-produced by Block and her husband Rob Davis.
All songs are given the Rory Block Band treatment as Block plays all guitars, bass, and percussion; and sings all lead and harmony parts. She opens with “He May Be Your Man” written and first sung by Helen Humes who replaced Billie Holiday in the Count Basie Orchestra in 1938. When Block sings “but he comes to see me sometimes” it’s the frosting on the cake. Madlyn Davis a.k.a. Red Hot Shakin’ Davis recorded “It’s Red Hot” with Tampa Red on guitar in October 1928. Block will make you smile as she sings the risqué lyric “talk about your pepper but you know you ought ‘a taste mine”.
The Viper Girl Rosetta Howard co-wrote “If You’re A Viper” and recorded it with her group Rosetta Howard and The Hamfats in 1937. The title track, “Prove It On Me”, was written and recorded by Gertrude “Ma” Rainey in 1928. Guitarist Ernest Lawler wrote “In My Girlish Days” for his wife Lizzie Douglas a.k.a. Memphis Minnie who recorded the song in the early 1930’s. Blind gospel singer Arizona Dranes recorded the traditional “I Shall Wear a Crown” with her Choir in 1928. Lottie Kimbrough’s “Wayward Girl” was written by her brother Sylvester and her husband Winston Holmes and recorded in August, 1928. Merline Johnson who performed as The Yas Yas Girl and Her Rhythm Rascals first recorded Milk Man Blues in 1940. “Motherless Child” was written and originally recorded by L.V. (Elvie) Thomas in 1930.
The only Block original is “Eagles” which has a highly personal meaning to her as “the words are directly from my life”. She addresses her childhood in her autobiography “When A Woman Gets the Blues” and we begin to realize what these songs mean to her. Block adds “it has been my longstanding mission to identify, celebrate and honor the early founders, men and women, of the blues”. She concludes “I always have to be surrounded with music to feel the energy I need to live. I mean, its energy, its spirituality. I live and breathe music”. We feel it too. Thank you Rory.