Home | | Archives | TAPSheet | Contact Info | Submit News

Reviews by - George Bennett

I just love that down-home Delta acoustic blues, with a side o' slide.  There's just no other music quite like it...nothing else is quite as real.  And, if you love it, too, have I got two for you!  SACDs, that is.  Do the names. Son House, Hound Dog Taylor, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, and, more recently, Derek Trucks, Ry Cooder, Bonnie Raitt and Keb Mo make your ears ache for some authentic backwater singin'n'pickin'n'slidin'?  Well, ache no more, dear reader.  We're gonna look into two new SACD releases - one from R. L. Burnside, one from Rory Block:

R. L. Burnside -- First Recordings ( Hybrid SACD Monoural Only - Mobile Fidelity )

R. L. Burnside's 'First Recordings' is out on Hybrid SACD mono from audiophile label Mobile Fidelity (MoFi).  Now, Ol' R. L. is about five years older 'n God, and still around.  Born in 1926 in Mississippi , it wasn't until the 1980s that he got any recognition for his Delta blues talents.  His first widely known and distributed album wasn't released until 1992 on Fat Possum Records!  Gramma Moses!  Since then, R. L. has released some 15 albums! 

'First Recordings', is taken from tracks cut in 1967/68 by historian/musicologist George Mitchell in Burnside's shack.  Burnside was a plantation worker at the time, with 10 kids.  All songs are traditional ("Rollin' and Tumblin'" is perhaps the most recognizable here), with arrangements credited to Burnside.  Acoustic Delta blues just don't get no more real than this, folks.  And that old plantation worker, thanks to his love of his music and his authenticity, has now toured the world.  Acoustic Delta blues and slide guitar is defined by R. L. Burnside (you just know the ghost of ol' Son House is inside him somewhere!).

If you haven't heard anything but slick, clean, studio polish, R. L. Burnside is gonna take you to school right quick on what real music, and blues, in particular, is all about.  One man, one voice, for and of the ages, one acoustic slide guitar...feet stompin' on the floor, knuckles tappin' the guitar's top...rhythm chords here, picked guitar lines and figures there, and a slide yet again over here.  One man accompanying himself ten ways from Sunday, all on one guitar, all at the same time.  Sloppy, dirty and so damn real the blues fairly ooze from your speakers.  And, in so doing, is its perfection.  This IS the blues!  Down low, dirty and nasty and raw.

At 16 songs on 'First Recordings' (MoFi added two to the original 14), the clarity and presence from the old source tapes is nothing short of astounding!  MoFi REALLY worked some MoJo on this disc!  It's as though R. L. were right there in your listening room!  No shit!  It is THAT good, this SACD.  Mega-kudos to Mobile Fidelity on this one!  This SACD is a necessity for anyone who claims to know music...to love music.  Essential.

-- Album::
-- SACD::

Rory Block -- Last Fair Deal  ( Hybrid SACD Multi-Channel/Stereo - Telarc )

Hell, Ms. Rory Block is a youngster compared to ol' R. L..  She's, well, to be gentlemanly...just on the back side of 50.  She does the same thing that Bonnie Raitt does, only it's more real, more down'n'dirty, a la R. L. Burnside.  Her music's not as watered down and as accessible to the public's generic taste as Raitt's (and, to be fair, her music is a bit more studio spit-shined than R. L.'s).  She's a back porch acoustic Delta slide guitar aficionado par excellence (and she's pretty, too!).

Influenced at the feet of The Rev. Gary Davis, Son House and Mississippi John Hurt, Block was on the road travelin' n' playin' before she was old enough to drink.  Since 1975, she's released some 20 albums, but, like Burnside, she didn't really make any waves until 1992, and, since then, she's been recognized as one of the best, winning numerous awards and accolades along the way.

Audiophile label Telarc has released Block's great 'Last Fair Deal' on Hybrid SACD multi-channel and stereo.  The stereo mix is mighty fine, but the multi-channel surround mix opens up the sound to an amazing degree.  Unlike Burnside's sides, Block's are multi-tracked - just a bit of harmony here, punch in a bit of over-dubbed guitar there.  The surrounds are mostly used to open up the sound, the room, to add three-dimensionality and transparency (except in a few instances when harmony backing vocals or guitar are used.  They're anchored up front and just noticeable in the surrounds.).  Block pens some tunes here, covers others, and arranges a few traditionals.

The most familiar here are probably her instrumental take on "Amazing Grace" (man, this girl can play!) and Robert Johnson's "Traveling Riverside Blues" (Led Zeppelin, anyone?)  The liner notes are well-done, with Block's own take on each song. 
On 'Last Fair Deal', Rory Block doesn't hold back.  She can get as low-down and dirty and nasty as any ol' blues man.  Block's voice wreaks of blues and sex - nasty, bad-ass sex...You can bet she's lived alot of life and alot of love in her time.  (She dedicates this disc to Son House, whom she knew briefly in 1965.)  Telarc's remaster here is shiny, almost pristine, but just a bit "thick".  Presence is excellent.  Rory's disc is prettier than R. L. Burnside's, but it ain't better...hell, it ain't as good, but to be that good would be asking the impossible...but it's close, in its way.  For 2004, Rory Block's 'Last Fair Deal' is about as good as the next generation gets.  And that's damn good! 

-- Album::
-- SACD::

Search Now:
In Association with Amazon.com