Rory Block wasn’t born with the blues, but she was raised with it. An unbelievable pantheon of greats strolled through the door of her father’s Greenwich Village sandal shop, and the young Aurora sat down at their feet, to learn, as cliché would have it, from the masters.
Did she meet Robert Johnson? No. But she did shake hands with Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi Fred McDowell and the wraith-like Skip James.
At the Van Dyck, Block turned that protean knowledge into a hellfire of blues. Maybe the real heart of Block’s sound is the way her socket wrench slide clicks against the frets. She’s not taking it easy.
The drone of an open tuning is an ancient moan that crosses many cultures. In Block’s world, it summons the Delta. Not the crossroads, butthe real sharecropper sound of bright, intelligent people forced to work with their backs. She may not fit the visual — still beautiful at 63, her long flowing hair touched with grey — but she channels the sound.
The New York State Presenters Network Fall Conference was held last month at the Empire State Plaza in Albany, featuring panel discussions on programming, audience development, marketing, fundraising, venue management and other issues pertaining to presenting the performing arts.
The conference was also a great opportunity for local arts fans to sample a wide range of performing arts absolutely free of charge, as the conference opened up its showcase performances to the public.
A while back, a friend described the first time he heard Muddy Waters in high school: “It was like the first time I tried whiskey. I couldn’t handle it. It was too rough. I had to listen to Sam & Dave for a while still before I was ready to try it again, and it still hurt.” If Muddy was whiskey, then the Delta blues is moonshine, pure rocket fuel (Kenny Chesney is a strawberry wine spritzer), and you’d better be ready for it to hit you hard.
Rory Block’s re-telling of the Delta blues is more refined than moonshine and goes down smoother, but not by much. While other contemporary blues and rock artists distill the music into something sweeter and more palatable, Block has no qualms about hitting you with the hard stuff fresh out of her own still.
“No, I don’t remember the first album that I bought, but I remember the first one that I was ever given, which is almost the same thing as buying one. It was called ‘Really the Country Blues,’ and it was given to me by Stefan Grossman in 1964. And I wore it out.
That was really the very beginning of my interest and love of country blues. After hearing ‘Really the Country Blues,’ I’ve never turned back because it was an immediate love affair, an instant click. This was the music for me.”
Nippertown’s own queen of the acoustic blues Rory Block delivers an all-too-rare hometown performance at the Van Dyck in Schenectady on Saturday (January 16). Showtimes are 6:30 & 9pm.
Good music, good cause: Chatham’s own Queen of the Acoustic Blues is so busy playing her music all around the world that she rarely has the opportunity to play a hometown gig. Until tonight, that is, when Rory Block plays a very special benefit concert for the Columbia-Greene Humane Society at the Church of Saint James in Chatham at 7:30pm.
Block isn’t just a dog-lover. Oh no, she goes waaay beyond that, and that’s one reason why we love her. “OK, I’m actually a dog. If not technically, then indeed an honorary one,” she writes on her website. These days it’s almost impossible to distinguish me from my dogs as I am with them almost 24/7. They are my children, my best friends, and my constant companions. Each one has their own special song which I sing to them, custom crafted melodies celebrating the unique drama of the life of a dog.”
(photo by Glenn Davenport)
Of course, there are plenty of entertainment options around Nippertown on Saturday evening for your post-LarkFest merriment. But you won’t have to go far for some jolting roller derby action. At the corner of Lark and Washington Ave., the Washington Avenue Armory is hosting an intra-league bout between the Center Squares and the Lark Street Hipsters. The fun gets underway at 6pm with a rockin’ concert by Ten Year Vamp, followed by the first whistle of the bout at 7pm.
Annette Cords: Uptake
The Posie Kviat Gallery hosts the first Hudson solo exhibition by Brooklyn painter Annette Cords. The title of the show, “Cross-Coupling,” is inspired by a chemical term that refers to two different molecules reacting and combining into a new one. It also aptly describes Cords’ inventive approach to painting., which combines her interest in science and technology with a very individual method of paint fabrication and application.
“Cross-Coupling” opens on Saturday, September 19 with a reception with the artist from 6-8pm. Cords will also deliver an artist talk at the Hudson gallery from 5-8pm on Saturday, October 10. The exhibition will remain on view through Monday, November 30.
Yes, we thought it was a joke, too, when we first heard about it. But it’s not. Bob Dylan really is slated to release a Christmas album, “Christmas in the Heart,” on Tuesday, October 13. And, yes, we are counting down the days ’til we get to hear him croon “Little Drummer Boy.”
Happy birthday to P.F. Sloan, who turns 64 years old today. Of course, he’s best known as the songwriter of Barry McGuire’s 1965 No. 1 hit, “Eve of Destruction.” He also inspired the great songwriter Jimmy Webb to pay tribute to him with the song, “P.F. Sloan.” But Sloan also co-authored quite a raft of other fine pop nuggets, too, including “Where Were You When I Needed You” (the Grassroots), “You Baby” (the Turtles), “A Must to Avoid” (Herman’s Hermits) and the classic “Secret Agent Man” (Johnny Rivers).
Here’s Sloan’s own rendition of that uber-groovy spy saga:
Grateful Dead concert re-creationists the Dark Star Orchestra step into the spotlight at the Palace Theatre in Albany on Friday, November 6. (Which means that Nov. 6 is shaping up as a battle of the tribute bands – with Beatles homage combo 1964 The Tribute at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall going head-to-head with DSO.)
While Dark Star Orchestra have climbed up the ladder from clubs to concert halls, second generation reggae star Ziggy Marley is headed in the other direction – at least for a fall tour that includes a stop at Northern Lights in Clifton Park on Tuesday, September 15. Just earlier this summer Marley was co-headlining SPAC with 311.
Also at Northern Lights, a thoroughly smashing show with Five Finger Death Punch, 2 Cents, OTEP, Shadows Fall and Burning Human (meaning double duty for drummer Jason Bittner) on Tuesday, October 6. Tix go on sale at 10am Saturday, August 15.
New shows on the upcoming calendar at The Egg in Albany include the new acoustic music of Peter Rowan and Tony Rice (Sunday, October 4), the reunion of Nippertown Celtic trio Donnybrook Fair (Thursday, March 11) and blues greats Johnny Winter and James Cotton (Friday, April 16).
A place where music-meets-dogs!: Blues queen Rory Block is playing a benefit concert for the Columbia-Greene Humane Society at St. James Church in Chatham on Friday, September 18.
Saxman Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe explodes at Revolution Hall in Troy on Thursday, October 29.