I have literally been waiting years to see county blues/folk maven Rory Block perform live. I have even gone as far as cajoling my friends in other parts of the country to attend her shows just so I could live vicariously through their enjoyment of this talented performer. When I finally saw that she was scheduled to perform at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis, I raced to get tickets to assure that I would be one of those lucky enough to see her. After attending her show, I am happy to report that the performance fulfilled my every expectation, and then some.
Through two sets filled with her interpretations of songs by such luminaries as Son House, Robert Johnson and Blind Willie McTell, along with her marvelous original material, Rory had people moving around in there seats, singing along and listening with rapt attention to stories about her travels, her loves and her life.
Decked out in black leather pants, boots and a shimmering grey shirt, Block walked onto the stage and immediately apologized because she had planned to sing her way onto the stage, a plan that was foiled by a non-working microphone. Quickly making up for her aborted entrance, Rory proceeded to perform her first three numbers acappella. Opening with "Poor Wayfaring Stranger" and ending with "Ain't No One Gonna Hold My Body Down," Rory started her set with a demonstration of her powerful, and emotional, singing voice.
Following the trio of acappella tunes, Block picked up her guitar and provided more evidence of why she is one of the most highly respected musicians in the world. Her finger-picking and slide guitar are exceptional and amazing to behold. The quality of her slide work was evident right from the start as she performed Son House's "Preachin' Blues." Her finger-picking proved to be the equal of her slide with a great rendition of Blind Willie McTell's "Statesboro Blues."
Particularly enjoyable were Rory's renditions of several Robert Johnson songs, including "Terraplane Blues," "If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day" and "Come On In My Kitchen." Personally, I also found her original material to be emotion-filled and very powerful. Many of these songs were preceded by great stories about Block's friendships, loves and events that have shaped her life and music. These songs included "Like A Shotgun" (about a friend who died from cancer), "Mother Marian" (about a 96 year-old woman who Rory became friends with and from whom she learned a lot about life) and "Silver Wings" (about a friend who died from breast cancer). Other fonder memories were expressed by Rory before she performed "I Gave My Love A Cherry," a song that her mother sang to her to make her feel safe in bed and the memory of her father playing banjo in the living room as she sang.
The songs for the evening were drawn from several of Rory's recordings for Rounder Records, leaning noticeably on her most recent release Confessions of a Blues Singer, Gone Woman Blues and the soon to be released I'm Every Woman, which includes interpretations of several Motown songs, as well as a number of songs sung in acappella.
Rory Block is an excellent guitarist, a powerful singer and a creative and talented songwriter who knows how to entertain an audience. It was clear that everyone in attendance enjoyed their evening with Rory at the Cedar Cultural Center. I am sure that everyone there also shares my hope that Rory Block will return again soon to offer Twin Cities' fans more of her exceptional talent.
Note: To find out more about Rory Block, you can also visit her website at
This review is copyright © 2001 by Dave "Doc" Piltz, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.