As the legend has it, when bluesman Son House heard Rory Block’s guitar work, he asked, “Where did she learn to play like this?” It’s easy to understand the incredulity; House, born in Mississippi and raised in Louisiana, came out of a tradition – the Delta blues – dominated by men. Even 75 years after Robert Johnson went to the crossroads, and supposedly sold his soul to the devil for a few guitar licks, the Delta blues remain in male hands. But Block came from a less restrictive culture; she was born into the Greenwich Village scene of the early ’60s, where acoustic blues underwent its revival. On albums like 2003’s “Last Fair Deal,” Block shows more of a desire to dig into what came before her, rather than reinvent blues for a new era or a female perspective. A two-time winner of the W.C. Handy Award for Best Acoustic Blues Album, Block plays a two-night stand, Tuesday and Wednesday, May 22-23, at Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale.
For escapist cinema, filmgoers can see “Spider-Man III” or “Shrek the Third” or “Delta Farce.” Summer’s almost here, and who needs their brain when going to the movie theater? As an alternative, there’s “Avenue Montaigne.” The French comedy definitely has a light heart; the story centers around a young, provincial woman who lands in Paris, and the musicians, actresses and art collectors who fortuitously are drawn into her orbit. The fablelike atmosphere guarantees a happy ending and a breezy, even predictable ride to get there. But “Avenue Montaigne” provides a sweetness and joie de vivre and a slice of idealized Parisian life that are infectious. It shows at the Wheeler Opera House Sunday through Tuesday, May 20-22, with an extra matinee screening on Sunday.
With the music scene as quiet as it’s likely to get, it’s high time to catch up on new music by artists headed to the valley. On “Love Is My Religion,” Ziggy Marley (a headliner at Snowmass Village’s Chili Pepper & Brew Fest, June 8-10) explores the uplifting rather than the revolutionary side of roots reggae. Son Volt (June 30, Snowmass Massive Music & Movies) expands its previously low-key take on Americana, introducing horns, keyboards and a driving energy into “The Search.” “West” finds alt-country singer Lucinda Williams (July 12, Belly Up) heading in the opposite direction, with some of the bitter bite removed from her songs of sadness and pain. On the stinging “Come On,” however, Williams shows she can summon raw emotion and turn it into sound. Canada’s Cowboy Junkies (July 13, Belly Up) are as focused on the dimmer side as ever; the first four songs from “At the End of Paths Taken” end with these lines: “My heart is missing”; “But we’re still lost”; “Take it all / But leave my cutting board behind” and “I’m nowhere near my peace as you spiral down.” And the album itself, more expansive than the group’s usual downbeat country-tinged sound, ends on the promise, “My only guarantee: I will f–k you up.” Soul singer Ruthie Foster (Sept. 9, Snowmass’ Oktoberfest) shouts out for attention on her latest, with a riveting cover of Lucinda Williams’ “Fruits of My Labor.” It’s a string effort, and it better be. The CD is titled “The Phenomenal Ruthie Foster.”
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This weekend is supposed to bring snow to the Aspen area after a very dry start to January. It will be welcomed relief to anyone who straps on boards.