Rory Block: Perhaps Today's Most Important Delta Blues Artist
"Today she is widely regarded as the top female interpreter and authority on traditional country blues worldwide."
-The Blues Foundation
Princeton, New Jersey, born and Manhattan raised, Rory Block grew up surrounded by the Greenwich Village folk scene, but it is the Delta Blues that she has made her own. She truly knows the genre.
Having been born in 1949, Rory Block was just the right age to be influenced by people in the Greenwich Village folk scene like Peter Rowan, Maria Muldaur, and John Sebastian. They made her want to play music and she started classical guitar lessons while quite young. At age 14, Stefan Grossman introduced her to the work of the great Delta blues guitarists like Robert Johnson, Willie Brown and Son House.
It was at 15 that Block left home to seek out and learn from Son House and other surviving Delta Bluesmen like Mississippi John Hurt and Reverend Gary Davis. She has built on the knowledge they imparted to become an expert on the playing of Delta Blues guitar. Incidentally, I consider it to be among the most expressive guitar styles.
Among her favorite players is Robert Johnson, of course. It’s also appropriate, given that Steven Johnson, the grandson of Robert Johnson has said that “Rory Block should have a doctorate in my grandfather’s music.”
Block has recorded several albums of her own excellent compositions, but it is when she records her favorite Delta writers like Tommy Johnson, Robert Johnson and Willie Brown that she makes magic. Her guitar has all of the power and nuance the style is famous for. Her slide work is my personal favorite.
I can recommend Rory Block’s autobiography, When a Woman Gets the Blues, which I just found out is now available on PDF. I also highly recommend getting out and hearing the person who I consider to be the leading exponent of Delta Blues alive today.