Rory Block – Prove It On Me
Rory Block has won six Blues Music Awards in her storied career and with this second installment in her “Power Women of the Blues” album series we get ten cool tracks where Rory pays homage to strong women who influenced her. Nine covers and one original are included, seven of which come from lesser known women who were important blues figures in the early days of the genre. Block does all the vocals, guitars and drums/percussion.
The album begins with Helen Humes’ “He May Be Your Man,” from the singer who replaced Billy Holiday in the Count Basie Orchestra in 1938. Block opens with some quick paced guitar work and then delivers a passionate vocal delivery of this great cut. She gives us some nice slide to enjoy here, too. Madlyn Davis’ “It’s Red Hot” is next, from a woman who little is known about except for her music. Block gives us a great rendition where she shines vocally and on guitar. Up next is “If You’re A Viper,” a Rosetta Howard tune. Howard was popular in the 1930’s in Chicago. Originally from Arkansas, she tried to regain popularity in 1947 when she was featured on recordings with the Big Three, including Willie Dixon and Big Bill Broonzy. They did not get good reviews, but this marijuana song was hugely popular. Block gives it a heady (no pun intended) interpretation. The title track comes to us from the famed Ma Rainey. Block sings and skats with authority and picks and slides coolly on her guitar. Juanita “Arizona” Dranes’ “I Shall Wear a Crown” was born blind and was one the first female gospel recording artists. Recording on Okeh Records in the 1920s, she was famous for her nasal style of singing. Block replicates that in parts of the song to good effect. This one is forthright and fun; block testifies and gives a gutsy performance.
The one original tune is entitled “Eagles,” done in a nice, early blues style. The lyrics are heartfelt and reflect an incident from her life. Block sings with great feeling and emotion. Up next is “Wayward Girl,” a Lottie Kimbrough cut. Lottie sang under a variety of last names. She garnered fame singing in Kansas City. A large woman, she got the nickname “The Kansas City Butterball” and was known for her powerful voice. Block does not imitate Kimbrough but puts her own spin on the song and does a nice job with it vocally and on slide. Memphis Minnie needs no introduction to blues fans; Block covers her “In My Girlish Days” here. Merline Johnson was know as “The Ya Yas Girl” and was known for a variety of juke joint blues. She was accompanied by Big Bill Broonzy, Lonnie Johnson, Blind John Davis, Buster Bennett, and Punch Miller and was most popular in the 1930s and 1940s. “Milkman Blues” is a cool cut with double entendres and Block delivers it well. She picks and plunks up and down the fretboard and delivers a fine performance. The album concludes with Elvie Thomas’ “Motherless Child,” one of two cuts she recorded for Paramount Records. She appeared on three others. She was from Houston and left school after fifth grade to begin her musical career at eleven. By age seventeen she was popular playing at country suppers. This pretty ballad is delivered with great feeling and Block plays some haunting slide with it.
Rory has produced 36 albums in her career, has toured all over the globe, won many an award and continues to produce great music. Her covering some more obscure artists is a great way to retain their memory and expose a larger audience to their music. Block does a fantastic job with these songs and I thoroughly enjoyed this CD. I recommend it to all fans of acoustic blues to want to hear a true professional at the top of her game!