Plenty of artists have paid tribute to the late rural blues great Edward James "Son" House and his influence over the years. But Rory Block's new "Blues Walkin' Like a Man" comes from a much more personal place.
"I really feel like this is a gift back to someone who inspired me and mentored me," says Block, 59, who indeed studied at Son House's feet during the early days of a career that started in the mid-'60s in New York's Greenwich Village.
But Block says that she "wasn't intimidated, and I didn't think of myself as...outrageously brave or anything like that" when she was in House's presence. "I just felt like this was the music I loved," explains the five-time W.C. Handy Blues Award winner, "and these were the people who played it, and I knew it was a great privilege to meet Son House.
"I also knew I could play him some stuff he would recognize, (and) perhaps that would give him some confidence in me. I was playing music from people he knew, so the confidence was there."
The all-acoustic "Blues Walkin' Like a Man," which features former Lovin' Spoonful leader John Sebastian on three songs, is Block's second homage to one of her key influences, following 2005's "The Lady and Mr. Johnson." Block says she has "a whole new record of original stuff that I've already begun" but notes that what she does next "could be so many different things," including another tribute album.
But she is fairly certain that whatever she chooses will likely involve just her and her guitar.
"My booking agent said at one point that most people expect me to be acoustic," Block says. "I have no problem with that, (but) I'm not doing it 'cause people expect it. I'm doing it 'cause it's what I love to do, and that people like it is a perk.
"So I'm really resonating with the acoustic direction. I don't foresee a band album in the near future."
Rory Block performs at 8 p.m. Friday (Dec. 5) at the Ark, 316 S. Main St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are $15. Call (734) 761-1451 or visit www.theark.org.