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Rory Block - Shake Em On Down

Stony Plain Records

As with the previous tributes she has done on Sunhouse and Robert Johnson, Rory Block sees fit to add an additional link in her tribute to Fred Mcdowell on her latest release Shake Em On Down. As with the case on the other releases, it is just Rory playing acoustic guitar wrapping her snaky slide guitar around the arrangements. She even throws in some original material of her own which holds well to Mcdowell's compositions.

In her liner notes on the CD, Block goes over each of the songs, speaking of the arrangements and how McDowell's influence affected her.Block is one of the very few artists who can re-interpret the old classics with flair made popular by the original country blues masters. Her arrangements are always haunting, fresh from the Delta soil unearthed.

How can you not feel you are standing at the crossroads when Rory puts her stamp on McDowell's "What's The Matter Now?" And "Kokomo Blues" swims effortlessly in its bootlegger whiskey.

It make take a little getting used to the added gospel vocals on the title track. Because since when does a song of forbidden lust become a musical candidate for the baptist church?

Though gender roles are confronted in "Good Morning Little School Girl" and "The Man That I'm Lovin," Rory has no problem in pulling off the material as her guitar-work makes the songs otherworldly as if Mcdowell's spirit is watching closely.

Her own number "The Breadline" with its lyrics of being down and out in a poverty stricken world goes hand in hand with the present world. Witness this from the chorus: "Ain't got no money." "Ain't got no home." "Cant afford no doctor." "Cant by no food." Accept this as Block preaching to the choir or simply stating a fact.

Ending on Mcdowell's "Write Me A Few Lines" ends this tribute on an upbeat note. Meeting John Hurt, Son House, Reverend Gary Davis among others, has contributed greatly to Block's treasure-chest of musical memories laying buried somewhere on Highway 61.

 Review by Gary "Wingman" Weeks.

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