Soon after picking up the guitar at age 10, Rory Block became enthralled with the blues and was fortunate enough to track down giants such as Son House, Mississippi John Hurt, and Rev. Gary Davis, who imparted their wisdom and encouraged her fledgling skills. Some 40 years later, Block herself is revered as one of the finest living practitioners of acoustic country blues, a brilliant fingerpick stylist, slide master, and formidable singer whose raw, stripped-down approach nails the traditional essence of the blues like few contemporary artists. Her new album, Avalon, due June 4, is a tribute to Hurt. It's the fourth in her extraordinary Mentor Series, previously honoring Davis (I Belong to the Band), House (Blues Walkin' Like a Man), and Mississippi Fred McDowell (Shake 'Em on Down), plus Robert Johnson on The Lady and Mr. Johnson. On each, Block captures the style and spirit of her mentors while showing off her own artistry. Avalon tackles Hurt nuggets like "Candy Man" and "Stagolee," Block picking out their heart and soul while singing their harrowing lyrics as if her life depended on it. On "Spike Driver Blues," almost every phrase is a cauldron of conflicted emotions ranging from defiance to despair.
Thu., May 23, 7 p.m., 2013