After her 6 CD Mentor Series, which focused on the rediscovered blues singers she met personally (all male), Rory Block launched her ‘Power Women of the Blues’ Series with a full disc devoted to Bessie Smith. That last album, A Woman’s Soul, was deservedly devoted to one power woman. This new one broadens the palette to ten women from the well-known to the much lesser known, from to ‘20’s to the ‘40’s. As in all of her recent albums, these are quite ambitious self-productions: Rory plays several guitars with an acoustic slide usually being the lead. She multi-tracks her vocals, including harmony vocals up to a full chorus and she adds percussion on each. The result, though, is a most effective showcase for these women and highlights abound. Arizona Dranes was a highly regarded gospel pianist about whom almost nothing was known until recently. The new info is gathered along with her collected recordings on a Tompkins Square release that Rory’s performance of “I Shall Wear A Crown” will no doubt entice you to search out. (He Is My Story-The Sanctified Soul of Arizona Dranes, by Michael Corcoran) There is also much new research that tells us more about Elvie Thomas and her partner Geeshie Wiley, singer guitarists we now know to be from Texas. All that had been known was six songs on rare 78’s. Rory’s version of Thomas’ “Motherless Child” will show you why these 78’s are such collector’s items. Helen Humes isn’t normally included in sets of prewar blues, being much more known for jazz & R&B but this performance of “He May Be Your Man” puts her firmly in this company. Rory has once again included an original song: rather than choosing one of her subjects to sing about, she’s chosen to do some autobiography. “Eagles”, she says in her notes, is a pretty straight forward account of her own life, with one line being an exception. Rory is nominated this year for the Koko Taylor Award for Female Blues Singer of the Year at the Blues Music Awards, including herself in this tribute disc shows how the tradition continues. With songs by Ma Rainey, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Memphis Minnie (“In My Girlish Days” is the first single), Lottie Kimbrough and more, this is an excellent collection of country blues in its own right. Pursuing your favourites further will bring hours of pleasure. The album will be officially released on March 27 and her web site, www.roryblock.com, shows a must-see date at Music by the Bay Live in Ajax on June 8.

POSTPONED: Blues Revival #10 Featuring Raha Javanfar & Fraser Melvin
March 2020 - Adam Karch