Our Top 10 Rory Block Songs list presents the best Rory Block songs like “Come On in My Kitchen” “Lovin’ Whiskey” and many more. Born on November 6, 1949, as Aurora Block, she grew up in Manhattan as the daughter of Greenwich Village’s Allan Block. He ran a sandal shop during the 1960s. While growing up, she was influenced by a series of notable folk artists and was encouraged to study classical guitar. With Stefan Grossman, Geoff Muldaur, Peter Rowan, and Peter Rowan as mentors, the young woman began to learn the instrument at the age of ten years old. Shortly after becoming a teenager, she became inspired enough by the guitarists from the Mississippi Delta music scene to leave home in hopes to meet some of the remaining greats. While in Berkeley, California, she played in clubs and coffeehouses. Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis, Skip James, and Son House were her mentors.
Retirement and Return
After taking some time off to raise a family, Rory Block returned to the music scene in the 1970s. In 1975, she signed up with RCA Records and released her first album. The self-titled debut featured a series of funk rock and pop as labels at that time weren’t interested in producing blues-style music. After producing five albums of this particular style and achieving only moderate success, Block became fed up with her attempt to cater to the mainstream music scene.
In 1981, she signed up with Rounder Record and return to her musical first love, classical blues. Since doing so, she’s developed her own signature sound. From 1981’s High Heeled Blues to 2019’s A Woman’s Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith, Rory Block was in her finest form. Several of the albums she recorded and released earned critical acclaim. Her coverage of previously recorded and released traditional blues materials by artists like Robert Johnson won over a loyal fan following.
After her teenage son, Thiele, died in a car accident in 1986, Block produced a tribute album, House of Hearts, in his honor. Most of the tracks featured on the album were Rory Block originals. Additional albums containing mostly original material were Angel of Mercy, Turning Point, Mama’s Blues Ain’t I a Woman and When a Woman Gets the Blues. However, the songs featured in Mama’s Blues were written by a songwriting team aside from Block herself.
After receiving permission to do so, Rory Block recorded and released 2006’s The Lady and Mr. Johnson, a tribute album of country blues legend Robert Johnson. This started a series of Mentor Series recordings that included 2008’s Blues Walkin’ Like a Man: A Tribute to Son House, 2011’s Shake ‘Em on Down: A Tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell, 2012’s I Belong to the Band: A Tribute to Rev. Gary Harris, 2013’s Avalon: A Tribute to Mississippi John Hurt, 2014’s Hard Luck Child: A Tribute to Skip James, 2016’s Keepin’ Outta Trouble: A Tribute to Bukka White.
In 2018, Block began the Power Women of the Blues series with A Woman’s Soul: A Tribute to Bessie Smith. The second album in the series, Prove It on Me, was a tribute to the early contributions to blues made by Madelyn Davis, Rosetta Howard, Helen Humes, Ma Rainey, and Memphis Minnie.
Rory Block Legacy
As a member of the Woodstock Mountain Revue, Rory Block earned herself a total of six wins with the Blues Music Awards. In 1997 and 1998, she was recognized as the best Traditional Blues Female Artist by the Blues Music Awards. In 1996, 1999, and 2007, she had recordings that earned Acoustic Blues Album of the Year. 2019 witnessed Rory Block being awarded Acoustic Artist of the year. The National Association of Independent Record Distributors (now known as the American Association of Independent Music) also awarded Block’s 1994 album, Angel of Mercy, as Best Adult Contemporary Album of the Year. This honor happened again in 1997 for Tornado.
Among the European nations, especially Scandanavia, Rory Block encountered a significant rise in popularity. She also toured with her son, Jordan Block Valdina, until he chose a different career path for himself in 2002. For Block, in addition to a successful career as a recording and touring artist, she also produced educational material. This includes 1967’s How to Play Blues Guitar, an album she produced with the assistance of Stefan Grossman. It was released a second time in 1978.
Top 10 Rory Block Songs
#10 – Terraplane Blues
“Terraplane Blues” was a blues song that was first recorded in 1936 by Robert Johnson. In this metaphorical number, the narrator complained the Terraplane car had starting issues due to his suspicion his girlfriend drove it with another man. Rory Block’s performance of this song was part of the 2006 tribute album, The Lady and Mr. Johnson she recorded as she paid homage to the bluesman from Texas.
#9 – Silver Wings
“Silver Wings” was a song that could have just as easily become a gospel number as it was a traditional blues one. Using “Silver Wings” as a metaphor, Rory Block sang about her faith as a mother. This song, along with the album, Ain’t I am Woman, was released in 1992. This was a great tune about learning how to overcome fear by simply relying on the wings of faith and hope.
#8 – Mississippi Man
For Rory Block, “Mississippi Man” was a song that came to her after encountering Mississippi Fred McDowell. He was among the Delta blues musicians that inspired Block to embark on a recording career herself. When she was fifteen years old, she left home so she could meet greats like McDowell. The song, as well as the album, was all about one of her idols. 2011’s Shake ‘Em On Down: A Tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell came from Block’s lineup of Mentor Series, paying tribute to one of the pioneers that fueled so much more than blues music.
#7 – Mama’s Blues
Released in 1991, “Mama’s Blues” was a remarkable blues tune performed by Rory Block that became a personal favorite among her fans. Sung as a mother debating about her value as a woman, this bittersweet tune defined Block at her best as a powerful storytelling vocalist. As a performer, Block was at her best when she performed her own brand of music instead of attempting to appease big labels and their expectations.
#6 – A Father and 2 Sons
Told Rory Block style, “A Father and 2 Sons” was the biblical tale of the infamous two sons mentioned as Jesus Christ told this parable to his disciples. From the album, Angel of Mercy, this 1994 release was considered one of Rory Block’s best works. Block’s own life experiences turned her into more than an artist with a niche for traditional country blues music. It put her on a mission to serve as a source of inspiration to what became a loyal fan base who preferred her brand of music to the mainstream numbers so often played on the radio.
#5 – All of My Life
From the 1995 album, Turning Point, “All” was a song that revolved around women caught in abusive relationships. Singing as a victim who also experienced the same thing herself, “All” was an emotional piece that was one of the record’s biggest highlights.
#4 – Walk in Jerusalem
From 1992’s Ain’t I a Woman, Rory Block’s bluesy “Walk in Jerusalem” was an original song she wrote that made reference to the biblical city as it was visioned in the Book of Revelation by one of Jesus Christ’s disciples, John. In addition to her love for country and traditional blues music, Block has an impressive roster of gospel-related songs that beautifully round off her discographic portfolio. As a song of hope to walk the streets of Jerusalem herself, this was an inspirational number that won over scores of fans who also knew about the 1986 passing of her son, Thiele.
#3 – Eagles
“Eagles” was an autobiographical song from Rory Block’s album, Prove It on Me. Aside from the album designed to serve as a tribute to the great women of classic blues music, “Eagles’ was a song Block shared with her audience about what life was like for her as the product of bohemian parents who felt they were too young to raise a child at the time. However, Rory wasn’t their first daughter. She was born less than a year after her sister, Mona.
#2 – Come On in My Kitchen
The hypnotic lamentation of Robert Johnsonn’s “Come On in My Kitchen” was regarded as the bluesman’s musical masterpiece. The song was considered one of the most emotionally powerful blues pieces ever composed. There were two different Robert Johnson versions of this song released. The first was considered mournful and too uncommercial while the second was more upbeat. In 1937, Vocalion released the second recording while Columbia Records took it upon themselves to release the first one in 1961.
According to the majority of fans and music critics, Johnson’s first recording was superior to what was released by Vocalion. Rory Block’s version of ‘Come On in My Kitchen” came from Johnson’s first recording for the bluesy genius it was meant to be. It was one of the standout tracks featured on the 2006 album, The Lady and Mr. Johnson.
#1 – Lovin’ Whiskey
In Holland, “Lovin’ Whiskey” became Rory Block’s big hit among the Dutch audience. Fans went as far as thanking her for the lyrical message she delivered about surviving a relationship that was marred by alcoholism. For them, it was a bluesy song of inspiration. For Block, it was her first sense of reality she was making a genuine impact as an artist. Since then, Rory Block’s musical career took on a whole new meaning as she no longer saw herself as some singer with a guitar. The album, I’ve Got a Rock in My Sock, was a 1986 release that saw Block’s niche as a traditional blues artist begin to make such a big impression on what has since become a loyal fan base on a global level.
Feature Photo: bobistraveling, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Rory Block Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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