Laurel residents can get a taste of traditional blues on Friday when Rory Block performs at the Montpelier Arts Center with just her guitar and her powerful, soulful voice.
Block, who was born in Princeton, N.J., and grew up in New York City, has been touring and playing music for decades and has released more than 20 albums to date, with more in the works. Most recently, she has been working on the Mentor Series, a group of albums dedicated to some of the blues masters she had the privilege of meeting when she was younger. So far, the four CDs already released in the series have been devoted to Son House, Reverend Gary Davis, Fred McDowell and Mississippi John Hurt.
Block performs original songs as well as her interpretation of some of the blues classics during her shows.
In the beginning of Block’s career, she would tape a set list to her guitar, but recently her shows have become more spontaneous.
“Every show is totally different and every moment of a performance becomes very real and alive when things are spontaneous,” Block said. “In addition, the energy of the audience is a huge part of the equation, and now I just go with the feeling.”
Though she often plays the same songs, they’re always in a different order, which she changes frequently.
“Music is totally personal for everyone. I think the most accurate thing to say is that everyone brings their own unique energy to their music, thus putting their personal signature on everything they do,” Block said.
Block was even able to put her personal signature on her instruments. Approximately 38 signature Rory Block Martin Guitars have been made and sold. She owns four of them and they are the only guitars she plays. Proceeds from guitar sales went to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, which she said is another one of her passions. In fact, one of the reasons why Block will be touring less frequently in 2015 is because of the animals she has rescued.
“They’re a priority to us, and family members,” Block said.
The only time Block leaves her dogs behind is when she climbs up on stage with her guitar to sing the blues. Block and her husband, Rob Davis, have brought as many as four dogs on their tour bus with them, but currently only have two. At home in Kentucky, they have 10 cats that someone takes care of while they’re away.
“We always take the dogs with us on the road,” Block said. “We don’t want to leave them in kennels because dogs are pack animals and they suffer when confined and separated from their pack.”
Not only is Block passionate about animals, but also the blues — and she always has been. She never thought about being a female in a predominately male genre, she just did what she felt right doing. Block only realized it seemed weird for a woman to be playing the blues when other people responded to it.
“It seems we live in times where everyone focuses on categories, but I’ve never understood that way of thinking,” Block said. “I choose not to focus on the things that divide us, but the things that bond us together. Music reaches into the universality of the human heart where there are no divisions.”