When Manhattan-bred Rory Block met Mississippi native Son House at age 15, the Delta blues icon was nearly a half-century her senior, but the pair found common ground in the raw beauty of country blues. Block's now closing in on the age House was then, and has put an exclamation point on an impressive career with an inspired House tribute, Blues Walkin' Like a Man (Stony Plain). It's an authoritative, tour de force performance (solo except for a few harmonica contributions from John Sebastian of Lovin' Spoonful fame) that's definitive of both House and Block. A formidable acoustic blues guitarist, wicked slide player, and superb singer, Block taps the blues' feral intensity in her own, distinctive, tradition-based style. House was a seminal Delta bluesman who created music that practically twitched with harrowing urgency, inspiring such subsequent giants as Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. Block finds House's essence with scrambling guitar figures, piercing slides and a voice that often seems to share House's demons. Two highlights: "Grinnin' in Your Face," a brilliant, a cappella workout haunted by the specters of House's backstabbers so insistent that one verse overlaps another; and "Dry Spell Blues," with Block's multi-tracked voice chasing itself as if sirens were flirting with her slide. The Bitter Spills, a guitarist duo comprised of Baby Grant Johnson and Rich Mattson that focuses on folkloric material, will open. All ages.
Sat., March 21, 7 p.m., 2009