Rory Block (from the album A Woman’s Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith available on Stony Plains Records)
Food and love are spread out like a buffet when Rory Block tells the tale of “Kitchen Man” on her recent release, A Woman’s Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith. Rory is cooking alongside Bessie on the album, the culinary became entangled with sensual on “Kitchen Man” as the story plays fast and lose with double entendre, the sauce brewing sliding into saucy with the added spice. Bessie Smith seemed to have been born singing and though her vocals became an influence, the topics of her stories past the borders of acceptable in her 1920’s/1930’s hit record cycle. The songs of Bessie Smith spoke of independence and sexual freedom, becoming the voice of working-class women who believed they did not need to change who they were to gain respect. Columbia Records signed Bessie Smith in 1923, dubbing her Queen of the Blues while the press reviews upgraded her crown to Empress of the Blues.
A Woman’s Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith pays homage to both the singer and her songs. For Rory Block, her latest series honoring the Blues originals has a female focus, A Woman’s Soul the first installment of her Power Women of the Blues series. The project was a long time in the making, Rory recalling that ‘Power Women of the Blues is a project that has been simmering in my imagination for 54 years. It has been my longstanding mission to identify, celebrate and honor the early founders—men and women—of the blues. This series is dedicated to the music of some of my all-time favorite iconic female blues artists, many of whom were shrouded in mystery during the sixties blues revival, while the recordings of others had simply disappeared’. With a confidence as powerful as the sassiness in her delivery, Rory Block walks up to the bar to place her order with “Gimme a Pigfoot and a Bottle of Beer”, coloring a late-night loneliness with “Empty Bed Blues”, stepping high with the spirit for “On Revival Day”, and taking charge in the bedroom with “Do Your Duty”. Bessie Smith was a storyteller, her tales showing life on a different side of the street. A Woman’s Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith heads up to “Black Mountain” to sing of its people and fingerpicks notes that scatter before the story of “Jazzbo Brown from Memphis Town” while Rory Block relives Bessie’s pain with “I’m Down in the Dumps” and lays out her desires with little left to the imagination for “Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl”.
Listen and buy the music of Rory Block from AMAZON