Blues icon Rory Block may get top billing on the marquee when she hits the road, but inside her official tour bus, it's a different story.
"I love having the dogs with us," she says of the three canines that travel with her. "The tours revolve around the dogs - we don't do anything without considering them. When we arrive at the venue, we walk them first, before load-in or sound check."
After three decades on the road, Block has turned traveling into an art form with a simple principle: Take home along with her.
"I don't really have wanderlust," she says. "What I have is a desire to play music for people, and the way to do that is to travel."
Origins: Now 63, Block picked up her first guitar at age 10. For years, she lived and breathed music at her father's store in New York City. Folk, blues and bluegrass poured out of the shop where her father held court on his fiddle and acoustic musicians gathered to jam. As a tween and young teen, she met Bob Dylan and played alongside giants like David Grisman, Maria Muldaur and Frank Wakefield.
"Pre-war American blues is the main focus," she says, "and my originals are a combination of many styles. ... I call it an eclectic blend."
Over the years, Block hasn't let perceived boundaries hold her back. A white girl singing the blues might have seemed odd to some, but she has both made the music her own and respected the tradition.
"I don't sit around wondering 'How will other people view this?' I just do what I love to do," she says. "However, I've always been very meticulous about crediting the original writers (and) honoring the source of the music, which I consider to be extremely important."
Block has a series of tribute albums devoted to doing just that. She honors her mentors, the "blues masters I was lucky enough to meet in person when I was a teenager," like Son House, Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt and Fred McDowell, with interpretations of their music and originals that celebrate their lives.
Meaning: Writing music, she says, "gives purpose to your existence."
She finds the rewards meaningful on a spiritual level.
"When I first started writing songs, I thought that my own personal experiences wouldn't mean anything to anyone else," she says.
Experience has taught her otherwise.
"The things you go through in your life are more universal than you might realize," she says. "There are plenty of others out there who are happy to know they're not alone."
The fans: The sense of togetherness is evident at Block's live performances. She works without a set list these days, attentive to the mood and tone of the crowd to help her guide the flow.
"They're a huge part of the show. Sometimes I say to the audience, 'You did all the work and I just sat here and had fun,' because their input is so wonderful and so powerful," she says. "Every night is different."
She takes the connection beyond the stage, visiting with fans at the CD table after her shows in an unofficial meet-and-greet.
"I have a moment with them," she says. "I love meeting people that way."
See the concert
Blues guitarist and singer Rory Block will headline the next Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert at 4 p.m. Sunday at Marketview Arts, 37 W. Philadelphia St., York.
Cigar box guitarist Shane Speal of York will open the show.
Tickets are $22 for adults and $10 for children and students ages 3 to 22.
- Reach Mel Barber at firstname.lastname@example.org.