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June 2013

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Rory Block
Stony Plain Records

Rory BlockMississippi John Hurt’s gentle brand of blues earned him scores of fans, not limited to blues fans, upon his “rediscovery” in the ’60s. His lyrical guitar work, his warm, relaxed vocals, and his amiable nature with his audiences played a big role in his popularity, and though he didn’t live long after his reemergence (dying in 1966), his music, which was blues-oriented, but also included influences from gospel, country, folk, jazz, even Flamenco, is still highly regarded.

Hurt is the latest honoree in Rory Block’s “Mentor Series,” where she pays tribute to those blues artists who have influenced her music. Avalon (Stony Plain Records) features ten songs associated with Hurt, plus one new composition by Block (“Everybody Loves John”) that pays tribute to the late legend. Block first met Hurt nearly 50 years ago, in December, 1963, at a New York concert that also featured Dock Boggs.

The ten Hurt songs selected by Block will be familiar to many blues fans. Tunes like the title track, “Candy Man,” “Stagolee,” “Got The Blues Can’t Be Satisfied,” “Make Me A Pallet on Your Floor,” and “Frankie & Albert” are still played regularly by acoustic blues artists, though not always with the boundless joy and energy that Hurt managed to pull together, even in his later years. Block captures this aspect of Hurt’s music, the joy and energy, perfectly. Her guitar work is always spot-on, and is here as well, and her vocals, alternately sweet and playful, are ideally suited for Hurt’s repertoire.

Of the four “Mentor” releases Block has released so far (previous albums showcased the music of Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and Rev. Gary Davis, plus a earlier tribute to Robert Johnson), this one is my favorite. I’ve never run across any blues fans who dislike Mississippi John Hurt’s music, and Ms. Block’s efforts should guarantee that more music fans will soon discover this great artist.

--- Graham Clarke



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