I’d lost touch with Rory Block so when ‘Prove it On Me,’ came along it was like hearing from an old friend again. If that sounds a little trite consider I’d not happened across an album since she cut a run of superb, gutsy records for Rounder in the 80s. If I recall ‘High Heeled Blues,’ was a particular highlight, a regular visitor to the turntable; yes kids this was all before downloads! I interviewed her once in Burnley, an unlikely hot bed of blues fandom, knowledgeable and affable she knew her roots and sources inside out. She was hot on the guitar in live scenarios as well, there was as much down home about Rory Block as any of her male contemporaries.
All of which makes it a pleasure to report that whilst my listening drifted, Miss Block has stuck doggedly with her chosen genre, switched labels to Stony Plain and is employed in a series spotlighting lost or less appreciated female blues performers who might still resonate with listeners if only their work were heard. ‘Prove It on Me,’ is volume two of a three part run. ‘It’s about the song that cries out, that yields a deep well of intensity and emotion,’ she writes on the sleeve, then kicks off with Helen Humes’ ‘ He May Be Your Man,’ a funky out pouring which justifies her statement in four minutes. The entire thing is Rory Block, vocals, instruments: production she shares with Rob Davis, it’s clear, sharp and full of tight, chunky, rhythmic playing with her earthy voice leading each track. The title track from Ma Rainey is a delight as is ‘Motherless Child,’ from the stock of Elvie Thomas, no doubting the passion of the messenger as she clothes these songs in new array. Her own, ‘Eagles,’ is dedicated to a friend who was a victim of emotional violence, left blinded in one eye, yet is also intensely personal, a slow burn through the ups and downs of life.
Rory Block gets right under the skin of these numbers and takes even more joy reinstating music not heard in ages, she lives and breathes the blues and what I said earlier about her being the equal of any other performers still stands, damn it she’s leagues ahead of most. This is jubilant music of the kind which tips the hat to tradition whilst eyeing wider horizons. I won’t let Rory Block stray far from my collection again you can bet. Keep your eyes and ears on the prize, this is the real deal.