May 6, 2006


— Country Blues . . . just fine pickin' and singin' —

Rory Block

ne of the greatest living acoustic blues artists" as heralded by Blues Revue, Rory Block has committed her life and her career to preserving the Delta blues tradition and bringing it to life for 21st century audiences around the world. A traditionalist and an innovator at the same time, she wields a fiery and haunting guitar and vocal style that redefines the boundaries of acoustic blues and folk. The New York Times declared: "Her playing is perfect, her singing otherworldly as she wrestles with ghosts, shadows and legends."

orn in Princeton, NJ, Aurora "Rory" Block grew up in Manhattan in a family with Bohemian leanings. Her father owned a Greenwich Village sandal shop, where musicians like Bob Dylan, Maria Muldaur and John Sebastian all made occasional appearances. The rich and diverse Village scene was a constant influence on her cultural sensibilities. She was playing guitar by age ten, and by her early teens she was sitting in on the Sunday jam sessions in Washington Square Park.

Rory Block uring these years, her life was touched and profoundly changed by personal encounters with some of the earliest and most influential Delta blues masters of the 20th century. She made frequent visits to the Bronx, where she learned her first lessons in blues and gospel music from the Reverend Gary Davis. She swapped stories and guitar licks with seminal bluesman Son House, Robert Johnson’s mentor ("He kept asking, ‘Where did she learn to play like this?’"). She visited Skip James in the hospital after his cancer surgery. She traveled to Washington DC to visit with Mississippi John Hurt and absorb first-hand his technique and his creativity.

his period seemed to last forever," Block recalls nearly forty years later. "I now realize how lucky I was to be there, in the right place at the right time. I thought everyone knew these incredible men, these blues geniuses who wrote the book. I later realized how fleeting it was, and how even more precious."

y the time she was in high school, her family had splintered in different directions. With nothing holding her down, she left home at 15 with her guitar and a few friends — heading for California on a trip marked by numerous detours and stops in small towns. Along he way, she picked her way through a vast catalog of country blues songs and took her first steps in developing a fingerpicking and slide guitar style that would eventually be her trademark.

he recorded an instructional record called How To Play Blues Guitar in the mid-60s (she was billed as Sunshine Kate on the original recording), but then took a decade off from music to start a family. In the mid- and late ‘70s, she made a few records that ran counter to her inherent blues instincts, and the result was frustration. "Eventually disgusted with trying to accommodate a business which never seemed to accept me or be satisfied with my efforts," she says, "I gave up totally and went back to the blues." The result was a record deal with the Boston-based Rounder label, which released her High Heeled Blues in 1981. Rolling Stone referred to the album as "some of the most singular and affecting country blues anyone — man or woman, black or white, old or young — has cut in recent years."

ack in a groove that felt comfortable and fulfilling, Block threw herself headlong into an ambitious touring schedule that helped hone her technical and vocal skills to a razor’s edge, and at the same time nurture a distinctive voice as a songwriter. She stayed with Rounder for the next two decades, making records that simultaneously indulged her affinity for traditional country blues and served as a platform for her own formidable songwriting talents.

he world finally started taking notice in the early 1990s, and Block scored numerous awards throughout the decade. She brought home W.C. Handy Awards four years in a row — two for Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year, and two for Best Acoustic Blues Album of the Year. Her visibility overseas increased dramatically when Best Blues and Originals fueled by the single Lovin' Whiskey, went gold in parts of Europe.

lock joined the Telarc label with the September 2003 release of Last Fair Deal, a mix of eight original tunes and six compelling covers of early blues and gospel songs. Last Fair Deal finds Block at the absolute height of her creative powers, bringing a world full of life lessons to bear on what she calls "a total celebration of my beloved instrument and best friend, the guitar."
      ... and more ... her very personal and touching Life Story

Rory Block
his evening was exceptionally exciting ... an evening of creative blues ... performed by a master in the tradition of the celebrated veterans of America's own musical art form. Rory filled the house (with audience) and she filled the house with vibrant guitar strokes and haunting blues ... many learned from her associations with the masters — and many new compositions of her own.

This evening was a unique treat!

Rory BlockPraises for her performances:

  • "Some of the most singular and affecting Country Blues anyone, man or woman, black or white, old or young, has performed in recent years."
      Rolling Stone

  • "A living landmark, the finest contemporary purveyor of the Mississippi Delta Country Blues tradition..."
      Berkeley Express

  • "... Rory Block is currently stretching the limits... hugely talented... She is one of our national treasures."
      The New York Blues & Jazz Society

  • "If you like music steeped in tradition and genuine feeling, this is your woman."
      People Magazine

  Link to Rory's music clips:   Rory Block - Last Fair Deal       or her web site:

Opening for Rory Block tonight were our featured open mike performers:

  • Ira Perlman   Ira Perlman

  • Jesse   Jesse

  • Nick Vermitsky   Nick Vermitsky>

  • Ed Wernersbach   Ed Wernersbach

  • Paul Helou   Paul Helou

  • Charley Bell   Charley Bell

  • John Bechhoff   John Bechhoff

  • Robin Inwald   >Robin Inwald

  • Bob Westcott   Bob Westcott>

  • Little Toby Walker   Little Toby Walker

  • Ira PerlmanOur host this evening was Ira Perlman.

    If you weren't here tonight, you missed yet another of the very best programs of the year ...