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.”

Full Article

The Beacon-News, Sept. 6, 2015

Sound Connection at Folk Festival
by Linda Girardi
The Beacon-News

Performers were having a ‘dialogue’ with their audiences Sunday during the 39th Annual Fox Valley Folk Music and Storytelling Festival nestled along the banks of the Fox River on Island Park in Geneva, IL.

“Music reaches into the emotional side of our brains and connects it with the spirit in ways words cannot,” blues artist Scott Ainslie said.

The singer and songwriter said the power of music is partly what pulls audiences and performers together for such musical celebrations.

“I wanted to join in the dialogue,” he said.

The tw-day festival for Labor Day weekend features performers with diverse backgrounds representing a spectrum of ‘roots music,’ including bluegrass, Cajun, and Delta blues.

Dance and storytelling performances fill out the festival’s eight stages. There also are interactive music workshops for aspiring artists and puppet-making classes for children. Performances and workshops continue through Monday.

Ainslie, from the artsy town of Brattleboro, VT, performed a selection of songs on a 193`1 National resophonic, one of the first self-amplified steel guitars.

He insists music has been part of his life ever since he began picking out melodies on the family piano from records his mother listened to.

For his Sunday performance he plucked a one-string, handmade diddley bow (a cigar box guitar) to the intrigue of audience members.

“Music is a calling – you make it with whatever instrument and influences surround you,” he said.

A day earlier, he was among several musicians who performed for a live WFMT radio broadcast of “Midnight Special” concert in the Unitarian Church in downtown Geneva.

The gentle creak of floor boards and the blue and white stained glass windows of the 173-year-old sanctuary were a refreshing contrast from the unsual venues of these artists.

“The acoustics are amazing here,” songwriter and musician Joe Crookston said during a sound check for the sold-out concert.

Crookston made the two-day trip from Ithaca, NY to perform in Geneva.

“I am inpsired by the human potential – people tapping into who they really are and then expressing that. The world becomes a more beautiful and magical place,” he said.

Linda Girardi is a freelance reporter.

It’s Gonna Rain – The Louisiana Connection

It’s been ten years.

In June of 2005, blues singer and guitarist Scott Ainslie wrote his remarkable song, “It’s Gonna Rain.” A rhythm and blues song about love lost in southern Louisiana, it was a poetic and lyric evocation of the culture where “people drag themselves to the graveyard,” as Ainslie often says, “and dance their way home.”

Six weeks later Hurricane Katrina hit. It scraped the Gulf Coast clean. The levees failed in New Orleans, inundating the Lower 9th Ward and creating a modern day diaspora out of the city that has only partially been reversed. That was ten years ago this August.

Overnight, without changing a word, “It’s Gonna Rain” became a song – not about losing somebody – but about losing a city.

“And for my money,” Ainslie says, “one of the coolest cities in the world. A place where people follow the band down the street in what they all the ‘Second Line;’ where people don’t just tolerate differences – they celebrate them! New Orleans has always given America more than its taken. This song is for them.”

Playing with Branford Marsalis and Joey Calderazzo in a benefit performance for the North Carolina Symphony in Raleigh three years ago, “It’s Gonna Rain” brought the house down. For Marsalis, born near Bayou Teche, a native of Breaux Bridge, raised in the music of New Orleans, the song was a natural fit.

“Playing that particular song with Branford and Joey was a dream come true for me. I’d spent years working and making lifelong friends in Breaux Bridge and Lafayette, LA,” Ainslie says. “I was channeling that when I wrote the song: the Spanish Moss hanging in the Live Oaks, the cotton wood trees, the smell of the rain on the streets. It’s all there.

“I just didn’t know how much the meaning of the song would shift when the levees failed in New Orleans – levees that repair money had been appropriated for by the Clinton Administration. The George W. Bush administration wouldn’t release the funds. There were something like 143 editorials in the Times-Picayune in the years before Katrina hit, begging the Federal government to release the money to repair those levees.”

Expressing a sentiment with which devotees of the blockbuster cable TV series Treme (on the post-Katrina Lower 9th ) will be familiar, Ainslie quietly notes, “This wasn’t a natural disaster. The worst of the storm had past when the levees failed. This was an unwitting, but very real political assassination of a largely black, democratic city. Call it what it was.”

And Ainslie’s latest CD, The Last Shot Got Him (Fall-2014), is entirely recorded on a little arch top 1934 Gibson from Louisiana.

“The guitar came to me from Linda Handelsman, a fine composer, arranger and musician who lived in Lafayette at the time. I played three chords on it and it sounded more like Robert Johnson’s recordings than any other instrument I had ever touched. It was made when Johnson was 23.

“The voice of this little Louisiana guitar was perfectly suited to the music of its time. So, I let it choose the songs for The Last Shot Got Him: Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Johnson, Rev. Gary Davis, as well as Yip Harburg and Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, and Fats Waller. It’s a lovely instrument,” Ainslie says, “that came to me from one of my favorite places in the world.”

“Without planning it, I’ve become sort of an informal ambassador, an advocate for New Orleans and south Louisiana. I have friends who left and went back, as well as friends who left and won’t ever go back. The 2005 hurricanes, then the Deep Water Horizon explosion and Gulf oil spill have kept the troubles of Louisiana close at hand for me.”

Ainslie says, “Keeping all this in mind, I raise my voice and sing the blues.”

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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Blues Blast February 2015

Blues Blast Magazine, Feb/2015

Featured Interview – Scott Ainslie

by Terry Mullins

It could be something as complex and spiritual as destiny or even the perfect alignment of the stars with the planets.

Or, it could be something much simpler, something like a happy accident or even the stubborn refusal to give up pursuit.

Whatever you choose to call it, the end result is the same; Scott Ainslie ended up with a guitar he had long coveted.

And with that prized possession – a Gibson L-50, circa 1934 -nestled firmly in his hands, Ainslie’s latest album, The Last Shot Got Him (Cattail Music), was quickly given birth.

The album – with just Ainslie on guitar (plus a touch of banjo) and vocals – is like a love letter to another glorious time, a time when legends like Robert Johnson, the Rev. Gary Davis and Mississippi John Hurt were still alive and in their prime. Ainslie’s sixth solo offering seemed to strike a responsive chord with lovers of authentic acoustic blues far and wide…

Read more on their site, or download a pdf.

Huffington Post Interview, 2014

A Conversation with Scott Ainslie
by Mike Rogogna 
The Huffington Post, December 24, 2014

Mike Ragogna: Scott, your latest album The Last Shot Got Him was released back in October. What’s the reaction been to it so far?

Scott Ainslie: From the moment the first copies have gone out I’ve received very positive responses from listeners. The quality of the recording and the performances have both garnered considerable praise. And The Last Shot Got Him was chosen as the December, 2014 “Recording of the Month” by Rad Bennett at SoundStage! Ultra–at http://ultraaudio.com.

MR: How did the material come together for the project and what was the recording process like?

SA: I recorded 17 tracks to choose from for this record and released fourteen of them. The guiding principle was the voice and vintage of the guitar, a 1934 Gibson L-50. All the tracks are songs and tunes that the guitar might have been asked to play when it was young–ca. 1928-1941.

My process? I record all the tracks in my studio at Cattail Music in Vermont. I rough mix them and then Julian McBrowne and I mix the tracks together. For this project, I went to Toby Mountain for mastering. Both of these engineers are masters who believe in using a light touch with acoustic music and we have good results to show for that approach. Continue Reading

Blue Ridge Outdoors Interview

To call Scott Ainslie a musician is to shortchange his abilities; along with being a world class blues guitar player, Ainslie counts himself an author, historian, storyteller, and teacher.

The Brattleboro, Vermont, resident – whose roots run deep right here in Virginia – was introduced to the blues as a teenager. Since that foundational moment when he was fifteen, Ainslie has maintained a passionate love affair with early American blues music, going so far as to transcribe the original works of the legendary Robert Johnson in his book Robert Johnson: At The Crossroads and produce an instructional DVD on Johnson’s playing techniques.

Ainslie has also released five recordings, won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council, and has traveled the U.S. and Canada to share his brand of American folk music.

Recently, Ainslie released his latest record, The Last Shot Got Him, a collection of tunes originally recorded in the early twentieth century by such luminaries as Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Johnson, Fats Waller, and more.

Ainslie I corresponded by email this week and I must admit to being transfixed by his responses to my questions. His understanding and appreciation of musical history virtually seeped through my monitor.

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Metronome cover

Metronome Interview with Brian Owens, 2014

Blues singer-songwriter-guitarist and historian Scott Ainslie is an innate musician and a true gentleman. After listening to John Jackson play at a high school assembly while in his teens, Ainslie found his way to music and never looked back. Over the years, he’s played with John Jackson, Ernie Hawkins, Etta Baker, Mike Seeger and the Fly By Night String Band, among others. He’s a gifted storyteller and an exceptional musician whose musical journey has enriched his life (and others) beyond his wildest dreams. We talked at length one winter day and he explained how he came to choose music as his calling….

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Acoustic Guitar Interview, June 2010

Acoustic Guitar Magazine, June, 2010
Examples online at http://acousticguitar.com

Profile: Scott Ainslie
By Doug Young

Like his music, Scott Ainslie is a study in contrasts.

A soft-spoken gentleman offstage, his performances use an aggressive, bluesy playing style to support his powerful voice. Both a music historian and modern-day bluesman, Ainslie can channel Robert Johnson with the best, and his own compositions seem to convey a deep appreciation of tradition and a sense of cultural roots.

His songs can be hauntingly beautiful or gritty and brash, but they are always thought provoking, whether he’s interpreting traditional tunes or contemplating current social and political issues through his compositions.

A thoughtful scholar and schooled musician, Ainslie has recorded five albums including his latest, Thunder’s Mouth, which features originals and songs by Son House, J.B. Lenoir, and others. He is also the author of a book, Robert Johnson: At the Crossroads, and a DVD lesson about Robert Johnson’s guitar techniques.

I talked to Ainslie about his approach to arranging, including the use of tension and contrast, while exploring his version of the traditional tune “Wayfaring Stranger,” which he arranged for his first album, Jealous of the Moon. Continue Reading

Kerrville Folk Festival, 2008

Scott Ainslie: FolkAtFestival.com Interview
Kerrville Folk Festival, 2008

http://folkatfestival.com/Interviews/SCOTTAINSLIE2008INTERVIEW.htm

The Land That I Love: Social Activism and Music

Scott at Kerrville 2008Scott had been instructing in the Blues Guitar Workshop for several days, but in his first appearance at Kerrville’s Kennedy Theater, he showed his other side, that of activist songwriter.

FAF: You have a new song, which you performed for your encore.

SCOTT: This was the first performance of the song.

FAF: And you haven’t decided on the title for this song?

SCOTT: I haven’t quite decided yet. It’s a song that begins with the NAFTA Treaty and its impact on Mexicans. And what NAFTA has done, there were deals cut under the table that weren’t advertised, and that lowered the tariffs on American corn getting into Mexico.

And so great big huge corporate farms are competing with little tiny, hand [tilled] farms – family farms – in Mexico. And of course they are undercutting the sale of corn that’s grown an acre away from the market.

And people can’t stay on their farms and so they’re walking through the Sonoran Desert out in Arizona and crossing the border to try and make some kind of a living while the corporations are raking the cream off the market in Mexico. So this song, the working title for me is, “The Land That I Love,” which, it really is written from a migrant’s point of view. And it felt good to sing it tonight. I think it’s a song that works. Continue Reading

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