The Hub, Hattiesburg MS

Scott Ainslie: Coffeehouse Hosts Rare Treat

“…I am interested in venues that are actively building communities of interest and in expanding my touring while I can,” he said. “Hearing that Hattiesburg was hard hit by the recent tornado, I contacted David Walker at the Coffeehouse to offer to tithe a portion of the evening’s proceeds to tornado recovery for the town.

“I am not well off. I am coming a long way to play. But I have my house and my family is safe. There are those in Hattiesburg today for whom this is not true. We have to all make provisions as we can to help our neighbors, even the ones we don’t know.”

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Ainslie Brings Gibson Tour to LCCC

Ainslie brings ‘Gibson Tour’ to LCCC

John Benson/The Chronicle-Telegram

The last time veteran singer-guitarist Scott Ainslie was in Northeast Ohio, he appeared at a late ’90s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum event celebrating the life of Robert Johnson.

“The first time I heard Johnson’s music I sat down on the floor and stared at the turntable for half an hour and then turned the record over and did it again,” said Ainslie, calling from his Vermont home. “I was transfixed. I think everybody who is interested in blues or roots music who hears Robert Johnson’s music for the first time knows where they were. It’s like Kennedy’s assassination or The Challenger blowing up.

“I was fascinated by his work, and I was delighted to be invited to the Rock Hall as a special guest. I had a lot of fun just walking around. What’s fun about coming now is that I get ot atually play.”

Ainslie makes his Northeast Ohio debut with studio theater cabaret shows tonight and tomorrow night at the LCCC Stocker Center. The musician’s “1934 Gibson Tour” is centered around Ainslie’s sixth album, 2014’s “The Last Shot Got Him.”

The unique effort was recorded on a rare 1934 Gibson arch top guitar and includes songs by Mississippi John Hurt, Reverend Gary Davis, Fats Waller, Irving Berlin, Yip Harburg, Harold Arlen and, of course, Robert Johnson.

Not only is Ainslie a fan of the Delta blues legend, but decades ago he transcribed Johnson’s original recordings and published the book “Robert Johnson/At The Crossroads,” as well as released the instruction DVD “Robert Johnson’s Guitar Techniques.”

As far as that 1934 Gibson guitar, it fits right into Ainslie’s bailiwick, which is exploring old-time Southern Appalachian, black gospel, and blues. The fairly rare guitar boasts a large round sound hole. He ended up buying it from a friend for $1,000 with no regrets.

“Guitars have different voices, different things they’re good at,” Ainslie said. “You can often find a guitar that’s really good at one thing but nothing else. You can find a guitar that’s good at 10 things, but not 12. There’s always something missing. So, this was a vintage guitar made when Robert Johnson was 23 years old. And it sounded so much like the period it was made for.

“I decided when it came time to make a record, to turn over the authority of what should be on the record to the guitar. So, rather than me being sort of the producer, I let the guitar pick things it liked and sort of structured the record around that. There’s a bunch of music from 1928 through 1941.”

He added that at his upcoming show he’ll be performing many of those songs on the guitar, which he won’t fly with (due to the fact that things often get damaged in plane storage compartments. So, instead, Ainslie will be driving to the Buckeye State for the gig.

Considering his ties to the Rock Hall, it’s not a stretch to view the “1934 Gibson Tour” performance as an archival affair that will edify and entertain audiences.

“In one way, yes, but the most dangerous thing for a performer is to be labeled as lecturer or archivist,” Ainslie said. “Archivist sounds a little dusty. I guess I’m a musician who knows the history. I’m an informed singer and player.

“So, you’ll be slyly a little bit better educated about the music you’ve heard. It’s pain-free, I promise.”

contact John Benson at


Scott Ainslie in Readsboro VT, Friday-June 19, 2015

Readsboro Press ScansExperience the diversity of the blues this weekend
by Rolf Parker

Deerfield Valley News, June 12, 2015

READSBORO, VT–There are several things about a Scott Ainslie concert that make it different from many others. For one thing, no one knows what songs bluesman Ainslie will lay at the E. J. Bullock building on June 19, not even Ainslie.

“I can’t give you a set list because they generally don’t exist. When I take the stage, I generally know what I’m going to start with and how I’m going to end a set. What happens in between is almost entirely driven by a combination of my instincts and my relationship with the audience.”

To kindle this relationship, Ainslie takes the time to meet with people in the audience before the show, instead of waiting until curtain time, waling on stage and starting to play, as many performers do.

“I always go out to meet people before the show. It allows me to know who I’m going to be playing for and it influences my choices. We are in this together,” said Ainslie.

This does not mean that he will play any and all requests for people’s favorite songs.

“When asked for a favorite song by someone, I will make note of it without a promise that it will be in the set. In that sense, there is no ‘show.’ We are sharing a space and a couple hours of our lives together. We influence each other. A request will become part of that dance, whether I play the tune or not.

“In between songs, my attention is on the audience. Somewhere in their faces, I find the next tune.”

While Ainslie may not have a complete set list, his knowledge of the blues gives him many blues songs to choose from. In 1967, when he was only 15, he heard Piedmont Blues musician John Jackson play three songs.

“I view the work of an artist the way a Shaman or Griot might regard their work in a more traditional society. In some tangible and intangible ways, we hold up a mirror to the world, the society, or an individual and we ask, ‘Are you happy with this? This is who we are. Are we Doing Well? Could we do better?’”
– Scott Ainslie

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Barns of Rose Hill, Berryville, VA

Ainslie in Winchester VA

Guitarist tells stories through pickin’ strings

By Stephen Nielsen
The Winchester Star, Thursday, February 5, 2015

BERRYVILLE–The Barns of Rose Hill is spreading the blues with a guitar workshop and concert by professional musician Scott Ainslie.

“I think it’s a great way for people to learn from a master,” said Kelli Hart, executive director of the Barns. “As long as you can play, he can teach you something on slide techniques.”

Ainslie is a traditional acoustic blues signer, guitarist, historian, and songwriter. He is a graduate of Washington & Lee University and has studied in the old-time southern Appalachian fiddle and banjo traditions as well as with black gospel and blues musicians, according to Continue Reading

Digital Media Archive established at Delta Blues Museum


Shelley Ritter, Executive Director, DBM, 662/627-6820
Scott Ainslie, CEO, Cattail Music, Ltd., 802-257-7391

Blues Guitarists and Singers Give Back:
New Delta Blues Museum Media Archive established to pass the music to a new generation

Delta Blues Museum media archive

Executive Director Shelley Ritter and musician/historian Scott Ainslie examine over 100 instructional DVDs donated to the new Delta Blues Museum Digital Media Archive.

[Clarksdale, MS – May 11, 2011] Delta Blues legend Robert Johnson was born in Mississippi on May 8, 1911. Following closely on the centennial celebrations of Johnson’s birth, a new Delta Blues Museum Media Archive has been established at the Delta Blues Museum as a way of assuring that the legacy of original performers of this great American musical tradition will live for another hundred years. Filled with hundreds of hours of Blues instructional DVDs for guitarists, singers and keyboard players – as well as archival footage of senior performers like Son House, Skip James, John Lee Hooker, and Muddy Waters – the archive promises to be a windfall for the life of the museum.

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Delta Blues Pilgrimage:

Photographs by Scott Ainslie
Exhibited In Lafayette & Lake Charles Galleries

[DATELINE: LOUISIANA, Spring & Summer 2011]

Scott Ainslie, blues musician, songwriter and scholar, was traveling through the Mississippi Delta in the Spring of 2010, when he shot the photographs that make up his “Delta Blues Pilgrimage,” currently on exhibit through August 20, 2011 at The Historic City Hall Arts & Cultural Center in Lake Charles, LA. The show was first exhibited at the Acadiana Center for the Arts in Lafayette, LA. These are the first exhibits of Ainslie’s images and constitute his debut as a visual artist.

See photos of the show, and a slide show of the images
with captions at the Delta Blues Pilgrimage website.

Here we find the Tutwiler railroad tracks where W.C. Handy – the man billed as “The Father of the Blues” – first heard a slide guitarist in 1902. And then there’s Dockery’s Plantation where Charley Patton influenced three generations of bluesmen, the black river town of Friars Point, and the towns of Robert Johnson’s birth and death.

Ainslie first came to Louisiana more than a decade ago under the auspices of the Acadiana Center for the Arts in Lafayette where his work helped inspire the development of the Louisiana Crossroads concert series.

The Louisiana Crossroads season 11 series poster and program guide contain many of Ainslie’s images as well as his essay “The Walkin’ Blues: Tracing Robert Johnson.” 2011 marks the centennial of Johnson’s birth.

Ainslie appeared on stage in a live broadcast at Central School Theatre in Lake Charles in January 2011 with noted Louisiana songwriters/musicians David Egan and Sam Broussard as they retraced the life and music of blues legend Robert Johnson.

Ainslie is also the author of “Robert Johnson: At The Crossroads,” a book of transcriptions of Johnson’s recordings with annotated lyrics, an overview of Johnson’s biography, and historical notes.

Ainslie has released five solo recordings and produced “Care For All,” a benefit CD for the ‘Healthcare Is A Human Right’ campaign in Vermont. His latest CD, “Thunder’s Mouth,” features Lafayette’s own Sam Broussard on guitar.

Michael Witthaus Interview, The Eagle Times 2004

Scott Ainslie at the Windham Tonight
by Michael Witthaus, The Eagle Times

It’s common knowledge that the vast majority of popular music owes a debt to American blues, but few have set about repaying it with Scott Ainslie’s sense of purpose.  He brings his musical teach-in to the Windham on the Square in Bellows Falls tonight at 8.

Ainslie, whose live shows channel the ghosts of Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt and other icons of the blues canon, explains that it’s “about redressing our musical history,” and acknowledging that he’s made a career in “a musical culture I wasn’t born in – I played my way in.  Presenting blues to non-blues audiences is 90 percent of the work I do,” and  he tries to “introduce songs in ways that open them up to audiences both emotionally and historically.” Continue Reading

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