Rory Block pays tribute to blues icon Mississippi John Hurt on the fifth installment of her "Mentor Series," which also includes previous releases dedicated to Robert Johnson, Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and Son House. Ten of the 11 tracks on the CD are associated with Hurt except for the Block original, "Everybody Loves John." Rory Block first met Hurt in December of 1963, backstage at a gig that also featured old-time banjo player Dock Boggs. Introduced to Hurt by blues historian and acoustic guitarist Stefan Grossman, Block was so impressed that she began to study his songs, his distinct finger picking technique, and his interest in diverse styles of music. Hurt was a bluesman who didn't just stick to the blues form, he embraced folk, jazz, Appalachian country songs, flamenco, music from Africa, and popular tunes of the era. For this session Block chose ten classic songs in Hurt's repertoire including "Candy Man," "Frankie & Albert," "Got the Blues Can't Be Satisfied," "Richland Woman Blues," "Spike Driver Blues," "Stagolee," and "Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor." Avalon: A Tribute to Mississippi John Hurt is not only an enjoyable release on its own terms, but it may lead a whole new set of curious listeners to investigate the original recordings made by a classic American blues musician.
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AllMusic Review by Al Campbell