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- Scarborough Unfair
An article on how Paul Simon stole Martin Carthy's arrangement of the English folk song "Scarborough Fair"
Modified: Jun 12 2009
Written by: Rory Block
|Format: Method||Medium: Book/6CD|
|Series:||Publisher: Hal Leonard|
By Rory Block LEVEL 4 * INCLUDES TAB. By Rory Block. Homespun Tapes (Instructional). Book & CD Package. With notes and tablature. Size 8.5x11 inches. 42 pages. Published by Homespun. (841708) W.C. Handy Award-winner Rory Block breaks down some of the greatest Delta blues guitar solos of all time, providing the details of how to play them with all the nuances and subtleties of the originals. The classic tunes she teaches include: Old Country Rock * Statesboro Blues * Big Road Blues * Canned Heat * Walkin' Blues * Cross Road Blues * Frankie and Albert * Future Blues * M&O Blues * Police Dog Blues * Devil Got My Man * Mississippi Blues * Ain't No Way for Me to Get Along. SIX CDs * LEVEL 4 * INCLUDES MUSIC + TAB
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Book of the Month 2003-01
Guitar Book of the Month January 2003 - Rory Block: Classics of Country Blues Guitar
Rory Block: Classics of Country Blues Guitar is a series of 6 CDs and a book.
Rory (Aurora) Block is in many ways a unique figure among blues guitar instructors. Obviously she is a woman. There are not too many women among guitar instructors, or among the leading guitar players in general. She is one of the pioneers of blues guitar research and teaching. When she was 15 (!) she left New York to search for old bluesmen in the south. (I would not have allowed my daughter to make this journey when she was 15 ...) She learned at the feet of the old masters, and she recorded the album How To Play Blues Guitar with Stefan Grossman back in the 60's.
There are two other aspects that sets Rory Block apart from most other guitar instructors: She is an excellent singer! She is an outstanding guitar player, but she has also received prestigious awards as a blues singer. Some of her own recordings of the tunes taught are included in the series. The second aspect is closely related to this: She is an active performer who is focusing more on her singing than to show off with her guitar abilities. First this makes her instruction series more fun to listen to and to work with, compared to many others. Second, and probably more important, she discuss many aspects of playing guitar to back up your own singing.
Rory Block is not showing off in her lessons. Sometimes this kind of guitar lessons can be intimidating: The instructor shows how "easy" it is to play these tunes, and we are struggling to get the basics. It is sometimes a relief to hear an instructor who is as good at playing guitar as Rory Block say that "this is difficult, I usually only "tread water" here". If it is difficult for her to back up her own singing, we do not have to feel ashamed if it is difficult for us.
Rory Block also explains a lot of variations to the tunes she teach. Blues is improvising. But too often classic blues tunes are taught as if there is one and only one correct way of playing them. It is easy to get locked in when learning how the old masters played these tunes. Rory Block shows us we can break out with variations. To summarize so far, I like her approach to teaching this material.
Before discussing the material presented in the series, I will also add that I like these audio lessons. First the whole song is played. Then it is broken down and explained in detail. The songs are covered in standard notation and tablature in the book, but you can work with these lessons without using the printed material. Audio lessons mean that you are relying mainly on your ears, which is a good way to learn this music.
The series starts with the William Moore tune Old Country Rock, a tune with alternating bass played in Dropped-D tuning. She continues with the Blind Wille McTell classic Statesboro Blues. The song was made famous by Duane Allman, but his version was very different from the original. We are still in Dropped-D tuning, and the song is played with an alternating bass. The song is very much built around a D to G7 lick.
For some reason, I always associate the Rory Block. And it is the third in this series. Still we are in Dropped-D tuning. But this tune is played more with a bass and strumming style, rather than a picking style. It seems simple, but it is the rhythm that carries the tune, and the rhythm is hard to get. But once mastered, it has a very powerful sound. Another classic played in Dropped-D tuning is Ishman Bracey's Canned Heat - a tune that gave name to one of the groups that performed at Woodstock. Canned Heat is the nick name of Sterno gel used for heating. But it is high on alcohol, as it is made from alcohol and calcium acetate. Some alcoholics who had sunk really deep, would eat it to get the alcohol - and Ishman Bracey was one of those alcoholics. Back to music: The tune is played with capo on 7th fret. It combines strums with melodic bass lines and strong rhythm.
The next four tunes are all played in Open G-tuning. The first two are the Robert Johnson classics Walkin' Blues and Crossroad Blues. Rory Block's is to use this tunes to teach some typical Robert Johnson licks in Open G-tuning, rather than to teach the tunes.Robert Johnson Rory Blockplayed these tunes with slide, but plays all notes fretted. If you want a more in depth analysis of the tunes as played by Robert Johnson, go to the Book of the month December 2002.
The third tune in Open G-tuning is the Mississippi John Hurt tune Frankie and Albert, one of his most beautiful tune and probably the hardest Mississippi John Hurt tune to play. The last song in Open G-tuning is Wille Brown's Future Blues. This tunes has similarities with Wille Brown's M&O Blues. It is a version of the "Pony Theme" played in E-major.
So far we have completed four of the six lessons in book/CD. In lesson five and six we get three tunes in Open D-tuning, one in standard and the another in Open D-tuning. Lesson five starts with Blind Blake's Police Dog Blues. It is a beautiful and popular tune, but not very typical for Blind Blake. Rory Block teach how to perform the tune, rather than how to try to sound like Blind Blake. She teaches some breaks and what to play behind your singing - which in my view is the right approach to teaching this music. But I do not really understand why she starts this section with this tune, and end the series with Rev. Robert Wilkins's That's No Way To Get Along. I would have done them in reverse sequence, and I recommend that you do this. Rev. Robert Wilkins's That's No Way To Get Along is a rather simple tune in Open D-tuning. It has many similarities with Wille Brown's M&O Blues, so in particular when you are coming from this tune, this is a better sequence. Police Dog Blues is harder to play.
Second in her sequence of tunes in Open D-tuning is Skip James' Devil Got My Woman, or Devil Got My Man as Rory Block prefer to sing it from a female perspective. I have learned that Skip James played this tune in Open D-minor rather than in Open D-tuning. I think of this tune as the archetypal Open D-minor song. It is often said that the Open D-tuning, as other major chord tunings, works well in minor keys, but lock you in a major key. In the same way minor tunings works well with minor key tunes. The advantage of modal tunings, like DADGAG, is that it is neither major nor minor, and work with both. But to my surprise, a minor sounding tune like Devil Got My Woman work well in Open D-tuning. As I have been playing the tune in Open D-minor for some 25 years, I am not going to change tuning, and I still believe that this was Skip James' original tuning for the song. But Rory Block shows us some possibilities in the Open D-tuning. And for a performing artist it can be wise to reduce the number of tunings. It is not too entertaining to see a guitar player on stage retuning his or her guitar, which may be another reason for staying in Open D-tuning.
The final song (if you play them in the sequence I recommend) is another Wille Brown's Mississippi Blues. This tune is a kind a graduation piece for blues fingerpickers. It is a piano like tune in A-major. Many has recorded the tune, and it is often recorded as an instrumental. Rory Block also present it as it originally was recorded: As backing for singing, with a break. You get both the verse and the break.
As the title indicates, these are really Classics of Country Blues Guitar, which means that these tunes are included in various publications. But Rory Block's series is the one I will recommend as an introduction to these repertoire. However, this is not for beginners. You should be fairly familiar with fingerpicking before starting on this music.
You can get most of the tunes in an edited version with book and one CD. It is a cheaper solution. But you will then miss the unique qualities of these audio lessons, and I will recommend the full version.
The two video sets by Rory Block covers some of the tunes, but mainly they have other material (but as I have not seen the videos, I cannot make any further comments on them). You should also listen to some of her records.