The Rural We: Rory Block
Photo by Sergio Kurhajec
“Her playing is perfect, her singing otherworldly,” The New York Times has said of singer and guitarist Rory Block. Born in Princeton, N.J., Block grew up in Manhattan, where she was playing guitar by the age of 10 and sitting in on jam sessions in Washington Square Park by the time she’d reached her teens. The world finally started taking notice in the early 1990s and since then Block has received numerous honors, including five Blues Music Awards. She’s met blues legends Son House, Skip James, Mississippi John Hurt and others who’ve influenced her style, and to whom she’s paid tribute with her “Mentor Series” albums. After more than 20 highly acclaimed releases, the Chatham, N.Y. resident is working on a new “Mentor Series” project featuring the music of women blues artists, and has curated the Gospel & Blues Fest taking place at PS21 from July 28–30.
I grew up in NYC but always spent time in the country every summer. In the early 1970s, my husband and I began driving around looking for greener pastures and happened upon a little real estate office in Hudson, N.Y. Lying on the agent’s desk was a fascinating photo of a grand old house well beyond the budget and we ended up buying it. I love 200-year-old houses and history, and there is much of that to be appreciated in this beautiful area.
We live just two buildings away from the Old Methodist Church of Chatham Center. Over the course of 10 or more years, it sat empty. Then one day it came on the market and we jumped at the opportunity to save the building. I can’t tell you how many people have said how glad they are to see the building in use again! This is our third year and we have hosted many wonderful events each summer, the final one this year being the Choir Fest on Sunday, July 30 at 2 p.m. Sponsored by PS21, it is free to the public, features wonderful local choirs, and will be followed by a reception for the choirs and the public. It will be a really special event not to be missed!
I am in the midst of a rather large undertaking —
tribute recordings to early founding masters of the blues which I call “The Mentor Series.” Thus far I have completed six tributes, dedicated entirely to rediscovered blues masters who I met in the 1960s when they were brought through the city for concerts. These six will eventually be re-released as a box set. All of them will be available at the PS21 blues-gospel weekend.
I am currently embarking on The Mentor Series 2, tributes to great early women of the blues, which I am calling “Power Women of the Blues.” We are now working on the first, a tribute to Bessie Smith. I hope to have six CDs dedicated to some of the most beloved women blues artists by the completion of the project.
PS21 (Performance Spaces for the 21st Century), asked if I would like to put together a blues-themed weekend for them, and I was very excited to get involved. PS21 brings a wide variety of quality events to our area — dance, film, music and educational workshops — and this was a wonderful opportunity to participate.
As part of our PS21 blues-gospel weekend, I will be performing with phenomenal lap steel player Cindy Cashdollar on Saturday night, July 29. We call ourselves “Sisters of Slide” and we like to say “we’ve teamed up to rock your world!” If you like slide, please consider taking the slide workshop in the afternoon and then coming to our show in the evening.