Avalon & Just for Today

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Stony Plain Records is based in Edmonton, Canada, and specializes in roots music, with Canadian cowboy/folk artist Ian Tyson the label’s best seller. The label’s 300-disc catalog has a raft of U.S. musicians as well, including guitarists Rory Block and Ronnie Earl. Avalon is yet another in Block’s “Mentor Series” and is dedicated to Mississippi John Hurt, whom she met during the folk/blues renaissance of the 1960s. Block is an accomplished guitarist and gives Hurt’s music a terrific workout. The highlights include a sprightly “Candy Man,” a driving version of “Frankie & Albert”—à la Hurt, with overdubbed slide (so tasty!)—and a lovely rendition of “Richland Woman Blues” (more slide!) about a hooker who reminds us that while a “rooster says ‘cock-a-doodle-do,’ a Richland woman says ‘any dude’ll do.’” On Just for Today, Earl celebrates his 25th year with his band, the Broadcasters. During the 80-minute concert recording he, too, pays tribute to some of his influences, among them a stunningly slow “Blues for Hubert Sumlin” and a rare (for him) uptempo “Robert Nighthawk Stomp.” His 8-minute version of John Coltrane’s “Equinox” and Broadcasters pianist Dave Limina’s “Vernice’s Boogie” are just two more of the disc’s many treats.