Rory Block Salutes Reverend Gary Davis on New Stony Plain CD
Stony Plain Records announces a May 29 release date for the new CD from multi-award-winning blues singer/guitarist Rory Block, I Belong to the Band: a Tribute to Reverend Gary Davis. The new CD is the third in what Rory calls her “mentor” series saluting blues masters she met in person and greatly influenced her as a musician. It follows the release of similar tributes to Son House and Mississippi Fred McDowell, for which her CD, Shake ‘em on Down, earned Blues Music Award nominations in the Acoustic Artist and Acoustic Album categories for Rory at the upcoming event in Memphis on May 10.
“I cried during the recording of this CD,” Rory Block says in the album’s liner notes. “While listening to the music, memories of a precious time came swirling back like a wave of warm, fragrant air. I was overwhelmed with powerful emotions. This was a time when people like Reverend Gary Davis could be visited in person - at home - and one could take face-to-face lessons. It was nothing short of a magical time - of discovery, falling in love - and being swept away by the liberating beauty of early American blues and gospel in a well-worn easy chair in Reverend Gary Davis’s living room.”
Rory Block first met Reverend Gary Davis in 1964, when at the age of 14 she accompanied fellow country blues enthusiast and guitarist Stefan Grossman for a lesson at the icon’s home in the Bronx, New York. “Stefan supported me utterly in my quest to learn and play country blues at a time when no tablature, DVDs, or other resources existed, save the greatest one of all: sitting down with one of the masters as an apprentice,” Block says. “Stefan tackled the Reverend’s style of playing as much as any human being I know of, and as a teenager, I was witness to many of those incredible lessons.”
And Rory Block learned her lessons well. “Today, she is widely regarded as the top female interpreter and authority on traditional country blues worldwide,” according to The Blues Foundation. On I Belong to the Band: a Tribute to Reverend Gary Davis, she immerses herself and the listener in a beautiful swirl of gospel and blues that’s the next best thing to going to church. On the 11 compositions contained therein, she channels the spirit and the passion of her mentor in a collection that includes several of the legend’s best-known songs, such as “Samson & Delilah, “”Death Don’t Have No Mercy” and the title track, as well as other lesser known - but just as powerful and important – songs.
The liner notes for I Belong to the Band: a Tribute to Reverend Gary Davis also include an excerpt about Davis from Rory’s autobiography, When a Woman Gets the Blues, including this excerpt about one of her visits: “Holding court was the magnificent Reverend. With his Jumbo in hand, he danced across the strings with a smile so sly that his mocked irritation was like a ritual blessing. On the one hand were the jokes—the flood of wisecracks that always brought a chuckle or a belly laugh—then came the reprimands, and your fingers turned to jelly before the master. He growled, he cajoled, he sang with his throaty, raw voice: gospel tinged with blues, blues coated with gospel, till his wife entered the room, dish towel in hand, to remind him that he was not to digress into the devil’s music. This was Reverend Gary Davis’s house, this was everything that mattered, this was blues to me in 1964.”
The new CD was produced by Rory Block and Rob Davis and features her on all vocals and guitars, including her Signature Model OM40 Martin Guitar, as well as a D-28 Merle Travis Prototype Martin Guitar (supplied by Martin Guitars for this recording).