The fourth in her series of tribute albums to her mentors, (Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell and Rev. Gary Davis have previously been interpreted) Avalon finds Block taking few liberties with Hurt's arrangements, perhaps resisting an urge to rock up Hurt's classic "Stagolee" as so many others have. Instead Block shows off her fine Hurt-style fingerpicking, every note ringing off her Martin guitar clear as a bell and spinning out buoyant melodies for her smoky voice to tease, and sounding especially slinky on Hurt's "Got the Blues Can't Be Satisfied." Most of the songs here are Hurt covers but Block opens Avalon with "Everybody Loves John," a thoughtful homage that she wrote herself.
Candye Kane featuring Laura Chavez
Coming Out Swinging
Kane has spent the better part of the last decade fighting cancer and as a result now weighs considerably less than she did a few years back. Fans would do well to remember Kane in their prayers but they can take some consolation in the fact that Candye's big, ballsy voice has not yet been affected and she belts out every tune on this album with as much vigor and passion as she always has. Kane's sense of humor is fully in place too; just take a listen to the swingin' "I'm the Reason Why You Drink" that's propelled by a staccato drum part from Fred Rautmann and flavored by funky harmonica licks courtesy of Billy Watson. There are only a couple of covers on the album, one of which is the fairly obscure Motown tune "Darling Baby," originally performed by the Elgins, another is the fast "Marijuana Boogie" which is also a great showcase for Chavez, Kane's longtime guitarist.
Here's a great set of electric blues rock; "Smile Again" is a fast number that sounds like a Stevie Ray Vaughan jam session with Janis Joplin on vocals, Mike Taylor's greasy sax licks open the "Stray Cat Strut"-like back alley blues of "It's So Easy" and the entire band has a chance to stretch out on the lengthy barroom smoker "Next Time You Think of Cheating." Taylor wrote everything here with the exception of one cover, a sensuous seven-minute reading of the soul chestnut "I'd Rather Go Blind."
Shiver and Sigh
The blues/pop number "Little Pack of Lies" and the understated and eerie "I'm Not Ready," both Grainger originals, prove to be among the strongest and most interesting cuts on Shiver and Sigh but the singer also turns in good performances of Robert Johnson's classic "C'mon in My Kitchen," Kevin Bowe's "Shiver and Sigh" and a sublime reading of Wayne Perkins' "Overdue For the Blues" where she sounds remarkably like Shelby Lynne.
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