Rory Block, one of the great acoustic blues guitarists and musical preservationists of her generation, digs deep into the blues tradition on her latest Telarc CD, From the Dust.
Driven by Block's soulful and fiery guitar/vocal attack and her impeccable rhythmic sense, the album seamlessly merges distinctive original material from her own pen with timeless classics from some of the great bluesmen of the early and mid-20th century. The result is a stripped-down recording—unfettered by extraneous instrumentation or superfluous arrangements—that reaches into the core of the human experience and bears witness to it in the most honest and intimate way possible.
The album's opening tracks have a distinctly spiritual sensibility. The title track addresses the universality of the blues—a form of musical expression that transcends race, gender, fashion and generation—while "One Way Down" and "The Gate" both explore the profoundly humbling power of death.
Block inserts a lighthearted interlude into the set with the midtempo "Big As Texas," a whimsical ode to the Lone Star State and the endless miles and hours it takes to drive through it.
Dead center in the sequence are a quartet of Delta blues classics that showcase Block's mastery of the old masters. Throughout Charley Patton's "Highwater Everywhere," Muddy Waters' "I Be Bound," Robert Johnson's "Stones in My Passway" and Son House's "Dry Spell Blues," her visceral connection to the Delta blues tradition is undeniable.
In the home stretch of the set, "Fargo Baby" provides a rhythmic and driving chronicle of the darker, seedier side of Americana—from dirty deals in rural North Dakota to the plastic artifice of the Hollywood hills. On the more wholesome side, "Take a Train" uniquely juxtaposes a chugging backbeat with melancholy lyrics as a tribute to an earlier, simpler way of life. "Unprecedented Quiet" is an instrumental piece wherein Block swerves away from her trademark traditional acoustic blues sound and instead takes a chiming, atmospheric detour that makes for the ideal set closer.
"This CD is like a recurring dream about an old house I used to live in," Block says in her liner notes. "I am moving from room to room with a deep sense of nostalgia, each one so familiar and yet so new. In excitement, I say, 'This is fantastic, look at all this space...I never realized this house was so big! Where are all these rooms coming from?' I am filled with joy knowing that I am going to be able to create new areas for different purposes, that the possibilities are limitless."
Take a look inside Rory Block's house and listen to the stories she conjures From the Dust.