Rory Block

Rory Block is a “living landmark” (Berkeley Express), a “national treasure” (Guitar Extra) and “one the greatest living acousticblues artists” (“Blues Revue”), and has dedicated her life and career to keeping the Delta blues tradition alive for 21st-century audiences. She is both a traditionalist and an innovator. Her haunting guitar sound and her vocal style redefine the boundaries of folk and acoustic. The New York Times said: “Her playing and singing are perfect. She wrestles with ghosts shadows and legends.” Aurora “Rory” Block was born in Princeton, NJ. Her family had Bohemian tendencies. Her father owned a Greenwich Village shoe shop where John Sebastian, Maria Muldaur, and Bob Dylan all made frequent appearances. Her cultural sensibilities were influenced by the rich Village scene. By the age of ten she was already playing guitar and in her teen years was participating in Sunday jam sessions at Washington Square Park. Her life was profoundly influenced and changed by these encounters with the most influential Delta blues musicians of the 20th Century. She visited the Bronx often, where she received her first lessons in gospel music and blues from Reverend Gary Davis. Robert Johnson’s mentor, Son House, shared stories and licks of the guitar with her. After her husband’s cancer surgery, she visited Skip James at the hospital. To learn firsthand about Mississippi John Hurt’s creativity and technique, she traveled to Washington, DC. “This period seemed like it would last forever,” Block Recalls almost forty years later.” Now I realize how fortunate I was to have been there, at the right moment and in the right place. These blues geniuses, who I thought were all around me, seemed like everyone knew them. It was fleeting and precious, I realized later.” Her family was split up by high school. She left her home at age 15 with only her guitar and some friends, heading to California. The trip was marked by many detours and stops throughout small towns. She learned a lot of country blues songs along the way and developed a slide and fingerpicking style that would become her signature. In the mid-60s, she recorded How To Play Blues Guitar (she was originally referred to as Sunshine Kate). She then took a decade off music to start a family. She made several records in the late- and mid-’70s that were not in line with her blues instincts. The result was frustration. She says that she became frustrated with trying to make it work for a business that didn’t seem to like her or accept my efforts. “I quit trying to be a good person and returned to the blues,” she said. In 1981, Block signed a record contract with Rounder, a Boston-based label. Rolling Stone called the album “some of most unique and affecting countryblues anyone – black or white – has ever cut in recent years.” Block returned to a comfortable, fulfilling groove and began a rigorous touring schedule. This allowed her to sharpen her vocal and technical skills, while also allowing her to develop a distinct voice as a writer. For the next 20 years, she remained with Rounder and made records that both satiated her love for country blues as well as provided a platform for her formidable songwriting skills. Block won numerous awards over the course of the decade, and the world began to notice her in the 1990s. Block’s international visibility grew dramatically after her single “Lovin’ Whiskey” became a gold hit in Europe. Four years running, she won the Blues Music Awards for Traditional Blues Female Artist and Best Acoustic Blues Album. In 1997, Block won The Blues Music Award For The Lady and Mr. Johnson as a tribute to Robert Johnson. She also took home Acoustic Album Of The Year. Block has released more than 20 highly-acclaimed albums and won five Blues Music Awards. Today, Block is at her absolute peak creatively. She brings a world full life lessons to “The Mentor Series”, a collection of tribute albums to blues artists she knew personally. Block’s most recent album, “Blues Walkin’ Like A Man/A tribute to Son House,” is being followed by “Shake Em On Down/A tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell,” which will be out on the Stony Plain label in 2011. Visit

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