Scott Ainslie heard Virginia Bluesman and grave digger, John Jackson play a couple of songs in the middle of a Mike Seeger concert just outside of Washington, DC, at Groveton High School back in 1967. Things haven’t been the same since.
Scott started playing guitar a month later and has now spent nearly forty years studying and playing traditional music, visiting and documenting senior musicians in America’s old-time banjo and fiddle music, Blues and gospel traditions.
With four CDs, a teaching DVD on the guitar techniques of Delta Blues legend Robert Johnson, and a book on Johnson’s music “Robert Johnson/At The Crossroads” (Hal Leonard, 1992) to his credit, as a performer and a teacher, Ainslie continues to present programs that are vital and entertaining. He currently makes his home in of Brattleboro, Vermont after transplanting there from North Carolina.
Ainslie’s deep voice and powerful slide guitar technique command attestation and pull the listener back in time, back before amplifiers and top-40 radio, to a time when the blues was a mirror of the lives working familes lead.
“I’ve played house concerts and sold out 1800 seat auditoriums,” reflects Ainslie, “and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’d enjoyed them both. But, if I had to choose my favorite setting, it would be something in between: a small theater whose stage has seen generations of my brothers and sisters over the years where, rather than separating the audience and the artists, the stage is a place where we come together and get to know each other. The Rivoli is one of those places. It has soul, a history, and when it’s filled up with people and artists, a living presence. It is going to be a real pleasure to join the ranks of musicians and performers who have walked onto that stage.”
“I spent a week with the Carolina Chocolate Drops years ago and had a ball,” continues Ainslie. “We’ve all spent time with Joe Thompson and we have interests in Old-Time music as well as Blues. We are going to have a ball.”
Ainslie will also be leading the second of two guitar workshops at the Buchanan Center for the Arts on the morning of the festival (Saturday, October 23rd, approximately 11am). Ainslie is a deeply dedicated teacher and historian and will bring his wellspring of knowledge to local musicians and blues fans.
“Back in 1967, when I began to play guitar I had no teacher,” says Ainslie. ”No lessons, no workshops, no TAB, no YouTube videos: just a cheap guitar and a book of folksongs with chord diagrams (many of which were wrong). I spent some time wandering in the wilderness, falling into every muddy ditch, bumping into every tree. I can spare you a good portion of that walk. Having been there, I’m a good guide. You’ll still have to walk the walk, of course, but it’s a big help to know which paths are dead ends and what you need to know to move forward.”
“Over the past 43 years, I’ve built a body of knowledge about roots guitar styles and acoustic blues and slide guitar. Robert Johnson, David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards, Muddy Waters, Blind Blake, Rev. Gary Davis, and Mississippi John Hurt and many other relatively unknown musicians have all shaped my understanding of this instrument, its expressive power and flexibility. Sharing that knowledge is one of the ways I honor them. It is a part of my responsibility as a link in a chain of human knowledge, culture and musical tradition.”
“And whenever I need to reconnect with those first few months and years with a guitar in my hands, I simply turn it around backwards and ask my left hand to do my right hand’s job and visa versa. The brain knows, but the muscle patterns necessary are discrete, handed knowledge. In a workshop, I can show your brain. You still have to develop the hand knowledge, the muscle patterns, which take time and repetition.”
“The beauty of having a teacher is to have them look at your hands and how you are playing a guitar and suggest ways to expand your playing and make what you are aiming to do simpler, easier and musically more effective. I always enjoy being allowed into someone’s musical life and being able to be useful. It can be difficult here in America for an artist to feel useful. When it happens, it is always a good thing.”
The workshops are free and open to the public, but seating is limited, so please RSVP using the contact for on the MonmouthBlues.com site.
To learn more about Scott Ainslie, check out his website.