FAME Review: Rory Block - Shake 'Em On Down: A Tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell
Rory Block - Shake 'Em On Down: A Tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell

Shake 'Em On Down:
A Tribute to Mississippi Fred McDowell

Rory Block

Stony Plain Records - SPCD1344

Available from Stony Plain Records.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

I've historically been (ahem!) up and down on Rory Block (yeah, I know I'm swimming against the tide on that sentiment), but, for a previous outing, and for this one, she signed up to the Stony Plain label for a trib to Son House, and there's just something about Stony Plain that pushes a new dimension out of its artists, 'cause Shake 'Em On Down has an unusual blend of the modern and traditional that's very attractive. Of course, I come to the table pre-prejudiced, having several times caught Bernie Pearl, another adulant of McDowell, in concert and watched him just tear it up on the catalogue, but Block is doing something here that spins a damn catchy refinement into the era.

Her own Mississippi Man was what slotted me into the disc, a hopping jumping rondo of repeating signatures that builds and releases many times, so infectious that I was soon put in mind of John Kongos' Tokoloshe Man, wondering if indeed ol' John mightn't have found the same inspiration when he crafted that little gem. But Block's wont turned nicely dark in What's the Matter Now?, fair to Robert Johnsony (whom she's covered to wild critical acclaim) while still purveying that loins-deep sway so redolent throughout the CD. In fact, no matter where one goes on this issuance, there's a dronily hypnotic atmosphere that pulls the listener in and won't let go. Perhaps part of that immersion into the vortex derives in the fact that there's only Rory here: acoustic guitar, slide guitar, voice, backing vocals, all of them solely her, no one else present; thus, the work of one psyche stepped in it s own juices.

Where Block really comes into her own is in Worried Mind, losing herself in the timeless expanse of the blues, surrendering ego and self to the larger milieu. That, of course, was the final secret of the masters (McDowell, Hopkins, Wolf, House, Williamson, Johnson, etc.): the music was them, not they other way around, and Rory latched onto it. More, though, there's an elegant sensuousness present simmering under a slow fire that slides from the back alleys and into the French Quarter—sure, not the Architectural Digest of the bourgeoisie, but what were you planning? Discussing Nasdaq trends or getting yer ashes hauled?

Track List:

  • Steady Freddy (Rory Block)
  • Mississippi Man (Rory Block)
  • Kokomo Blues (Fred McDowell)
  • Good Morning Little School Girl (Sonny Boy Williamson)
  • What's the Matter Now? (Fred McDowell)
  • Shake 'Em Down (Fred McDowell)
  • Worried Mind (Fred McDowell)
  • The Man [Girl] that I'm Lovin' (Fred McDowell)
  • Ancestral Home (Rory Block)
  • The Breadline (Rory Block)
  • Woke Up this Morning (Fred McDowell)
  • Write Me a Few of your Lines (Fred McDowell)

Edited by: David N. Pyles


Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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