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Pamela L. Dow

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A Precious Jewel Of Strength And Spirit
by Pamela L. Dow   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Sunday, April 11, 2004
Posted: Sunday, April 11, 2004

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A review of the new Rory Block CD

Rory Block
Last Fair Deal
(Telarc Records 2003, CD-83593)
Pamela L. Dow

“A Precious Jewel Of Strength and Spirit”
by Pamela L. Dow

As we officially recognize 2003 as the “Year Of The Blues”, veteran artist Rory Block has devoted an entire career, celebrating the deep roots and rich history of this treasured genre. Her latest release, Last Fair Deal(Telarc 2003), is a true testament to the artists personal dedication in keeping the traditional blues sound alive and vibrant for future
generations. With a distinctive collection of highly acclaimed recordings, this latest effort
is her debut on the Telarc label. Last Fair Deal, is a showcase of traditional country blues, gospel standards and personal arrangements, stretching Blocks creative boundaries. In the liner notes, she describes this new CD as a personal celebration for her beloved instrument and best friend, her guitar. The growth of this relationship has developed into a true extension of the artist herself. Block refers to her guitar as an “orchestra all on it’s own”, a point successfully proven throughout the recording.

Last Fair Deal is a brilliant piece of work, containing 14 songs highlighting the artists passionate vocals, stinging slide technique and instinctual interpretation of the genre’s origins. The opening track, “Gone Again” is a hard driving, high energy tune, illustrating Block’s masterful guitar genius, even showing her playful side. It begins with the roar of a
Harley, as she punctuates a rhythmic response, keeping pace with the engine. As the bike trails off in the distance, her slide mirrors the open road, traveling across the fretboard
while enjoying the ride. The following track, “Sookie Sookie” is a slower slide piece. This
soulful blues tune tells the story of a cheating husband and the turmoil caused. The
aggressive slide work expresses the overall anger and frustration, while she vocally
conveys the painful heartache. Next, Block honors both her musical roots and long time
mentor Son House with an authentic presentation of, “County Farm Blues”. She
embellishes upon the delta style with such natural ease, delivering a gutsy, acoustic
performance. Her emphasis remains loyal to the traditional feel, surely making the master
quite proud. Two tracks also pay tribute to Robert Johnson, “Last Fair Deal Gone Down”
and “Traveling Riverside Blues”. Block rips into some raw, deliberate blues work. Plenty
of hard driving rhythm and blistering slide, without overshadowing her distinctive vocal
accents. All three tracks are pure passion and dazzling proficiency, an excellent display of
this blues guitar virtuoso at her finest.
Last Fair Deal, is a complete package, as the artist explores several areas of the blues
genre. She ventures into a wealth of creative imagery on “Amazing Grace” and “Awesome
Love”, two instrumentals which sparkle with spontaneity. Each track shines with long
tonal expressions, resonating inner beauty with intense emotion. Both these tracks sound
improvised at times, yet very deliberate at others, as each carries a warm glow from start
to finish. There’s also a spiritual presence on this new CD, as Block exercises her gospel
muscle. On “Declare”, both vocals and slide testify simultaneously, with Block sounding
like a preacher at a Sunday morning service. The choir articulates a bright, uplifting sound
with their “call and response” style, helping to drive home the message. “Look What The
Lord Has Done”, is another strong spiritual track with plenty of gospel and country blues
overtones, celebrating the power of the Lord. Block also covers a more folk type blues on
“Mama’ Stray Baby” and “Two Places At A Table”. Both tracks are very introspective, as
the artist shares on a very personal level. She reaches into the emotional well about love
and loss almost too difficult to describe. Block opens the door just wide enough for the
listener to feel her joy and sorrow, tenderness and heartache, told poignantly through the
clarity of her voice and the strings of her guitar.

Last Fair Deal is a wondrous blend of musical color, vivid as a rainbow after a thunderstorm. Each track, with it’s own unique style and sound, is blended together
creating an amazing masterpiece. This new CD finds Block returning home to the blues,
honoring it’s tradition and venturing into it’s future. The depth of emotion and artistic
creativity on this new recording will have both her fans and the folks at Telarc wanting for
more. Block has definitely hit this one out of the park, most certainly an impressive
example of what’s yet to come.


(C) 2003 P.L. Dow

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