RON BLOCK: Walking Song

SOR_Ron Block_ Walking Song


Walking Song
Rounder 9167

Ron Block is familiar to bluegrass and mainstream country music fans by virtue of his long tenure as banjo player and guitarist in Alison Krauss’ band Union Station, a gig that has kept bread on his family’s table for more than twenty years, and he’s very happy for it to keep going another twenty, thank you very much. Throughout those years he has penned a substantial catalog of songs not only for Krauss but for a wide array of talents in the Nashville orbit, too. Known as a deep thinker with an avid following on a number of websites devoted to theology and philosophy, his first two solo recordings were explorations of his own deeply held Christian faith. Walking Song represents something of a departure, in that while it is still, as the title suggests, strikingly thoughtful and imaginative, he seems to be more actively engaging the listener on a much broader philosophical, even existential level.

A large part of this difference in approach stems from Block’s internet encounter and subsequent friendship with poet and lyricist Rebecca Reynolds. After finding substantial artistic and spiritual common ground, Walking Song became a collaboration of Reynolds’ lyrics set to Block’s music. On tunes like “Ivy” and “Take Me To The Ocean,” Reynolds demonstrates a fertile imagination and ability to cast and hold imagery ranging from subtle and gray to bold and vibrant. Block has a naturally expressive voice that easily interprets and conveys that imagery, and for a guy known mostly as a banjo player, he continues to show that he is a superlative guitar player as well. Although there is some straight-ahead bluegrass here (“Nickel Tree Line”), this is an album that is directed more toward what has come to be known as the “Americana” audience.

Unsurprisingly, the supporting cast includes Krauss and the rest of her band (Dan Tyminski, Jerry Douglas, Barry Bales), but with the inspired addition of folks like Suzanne Cox, Stuart Duncan, Sierra Hull, Rob Ickes and Kate Rusby as well. The result is a richly textured instrumental and vocal tapestry that complements Block’s and Reynolds’ music in striking fashion.

John Lupton

About John Lupton

John Lupton has co-hosted “Rural Free Delivery” on WVUD-FM at the University of Delaware since 1989, and has been a regular contributor to Sing Out! since 1996. For more than 25 years he has been a board member of the Brandywine Friends of Old Time Music, promoters of the annual Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival, and since 1998 has been on the board of the Green Willow Folk Club, a Delaware venue dedicated to Celtic and British Isles music. John retired in 2014 after more than 35 years in the computer support business, including two decades at the University of Pennsylvania. He believes that facing adversity builds character, and while anyone can be a Yankees fan, it takes true fortitude and guts to be a Phillies fan for 60 years, as he has proudly been. John’s wife is the noted folk music photographer Jayne Toohey.

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