American roots music is an international pursuit for Eric Bibb.
Bibb, a Grammy-winning blues guitarist and singer, moved at age 18 from his hometown of New York City to Paris, and has spent most of his life abroad. He now lives in Helsinki, Finland.
When Bibb, 61, first moved to Europe, he encountered "a crowd of music lovers that were very aware, perhaps even more aware than their American counterparts" of American roots music, Bibb said. "It is pretty even now, though, on both sides."
Bibb, known for his steel-string acoustic guitar and gritty and expressive but not especially mournful blues vocals, keeps enhancing his own knowledge as well. His 2012 album "Deeper in the Well" incorporates Louisiana music.
Now touring with the Louisiana musicians with whom he recorded the album multi- instrumentalist Dirk Powell, fiddler-accordionist Cedric Watson and harmonica player Grant Dermody Bibb will perform Saturday at Sacramento's 24th Street Theatre.
"Deeper," recorded in Louisiana, is "more of an extension" of his music than a departure, Bibb said by phone from Finland a few weeks ago.
"At a certain point, Louisiana becomes really interesting to anyone who is aware of American roots music. It is one of the few places left where music is thriving in a local way where there is a community and support. It is one of the most vibrant folk communities left in America."
"Deeper in the Well" contains prominent strings and Creole and Cajun influences yet remains, like all Bibb's recordings, rooted in the socially conscious folk music with which he was raised.
Bibb's Kentucky-born father, Leon Bibb, was active in the New York music and political scenes of the 1950s. Bibb met Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger through Leon, a Broadway performer and folk singer.
Paul Robeson, the groundbreaking singer, actor and civil rights activist, was Eric Bibb's godfather. Robeson, who famously played Othello on London and New York stages in the 1930s and '40s, found audiences abroad to be more receptive to his art and socialist leanings. He was blacklisted during the McCarthy era.
Robeson "was either traveling or in exile" for most of Eric Bibb's youth, Bibb said, and he died when Bibb was a teenager. But he had a profound impact on Bibb and his family.
"He was my dad's friend and mentor, both politically and musically," Bibb said. "His courage and integrity have been a really big part of my upbringing."
Bibb, married to a Finnish Australian woman and the father of five children, said he did not intentionally follow Robeson's lead in moving to Europe. But he played the same halls. A Welsh fan told Bibb she had seen his godfather, an advocate for Welsh miners, decades before.
The social consciousness of Bibb's songs "is not something that I really had to consciously decide," he said. "It was such a big part of my schooling, as it were, where music kind of met the social realities of the time."
On "Deeper," Bibb takes on homelessness and other issues. But the song "Bayou Belle" is straight-up sexy.
Powell, Bibb's "Deeper" collaborator, said Bibb's sensibilities suit Louisiana music.
"He has this spiritual sense of the music, but (his music) is also earthy and sensual and grounded," Powell said by phone from Louisiana. "Not everybody can mix those things."
Bibb's sensibilities never run to the forced woefulness adopted by some modern blues singers. His phrasing packed with feeling but refreshingly straightforward reflects his life, Bibb said.
"Blues has always been about telling your story," Bibb said. "I think you have to honor that. I am not just a museum curator with the music.
"I haven't had a woeful life, so the life of my heroes that might have been in part woeful is only something I can appreciate to a certain extent. I have to tell my own story, which is quite a bit brighter."
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: 24th Street Theatre at the Sierra 2 Center, 2791 24th St., Sacramento
Information: www.swell-productions.com, (916) 457-7553