Rory Block has been involved with the music of Robert Johnson most of her life. At a young age, she apprenticed directly with Son House, Skip James, Reverend Gary Davis and other seminal blues greats.
She knows the blues, and has won a number of WC Handy awards for her efforts over the years. On these two DVDs, she focuses on the stylings of Robert Johnson and demystifies the licks, runs, strums, bass lines, turnarounds, and other important elements of his music.
Working in open D and G tunings, Part 1 provides a series of information keys – specific guitar techniques that are common to all Johnson compositions: the slide sound, the percussive picking and strumming skills needed to achieve the feel of his songs. Block discusses blues singing styles, and how to establish the energy, drive, and motivation that will make for a funkier, more interesting player.
In Part 2 she takes several specific songs and analyzes them in depth, note by note, lick by lick. Each of the three represents a different stylistic aspect of Johnson’s playing, and each is broken down into specific components beginning with the intro, the chord positions, slide moves, picking, strumming and other skills needed to play the songs as they were meant to be played.
Block’s passion for the music, along with her remarkable talent, makes her the perfect teacher and means that players with medium skills will be able to master these techniques.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Apr ’08 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.