Acoustic Live! Interview, 2004
Acoustic Live! Interview with Scott Ainslie
It’s mid-November, 2003, and I’m sitting in the darkened Starlight Room of Kutscher’s Hotel & Resort. We’re listening to blues singer Scott Ainslie preface a performance of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroad Blues.” He’s one of the featured main showcase performers at the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference. In the middle of the brightly lit, circular stage, he gives us the facts behind this classic blues song. For the first time, I learn of the after-dark curfew for black men that existed in the deep South in Johnson’s day. A black man caught out on the high- way after dark risked death at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan or the local sheriff. As the bottleneck glides over the strings of Ainslie’s 1931 National Steel guitar, I can envision Johnson standing on a dirt road, guitar case in hand, with the sun setting. I’m reading Johnson’s mind with grim clarity as Scott sings: “I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees / Asked the lord above for mercy, say boy, if you please / The sun’s goin’ down, That sun’s gonna catch me here / Lord I’m standin’ at the crossroads, I believe I’m sinkin’ down.”
There’s something about Scott Ainslie that spurs a desire to sit down and share a beer or two. Maybe it’s the way his face lights up when he’s telling you about the dusty delta history behind a blues ballad. Perhaps it’s the powerful baritone that holds each song aloft like the crown jewel he believes it to be. Could be the impressive slide guitar technique honed from years of traveling around the country, learning from the masters. The beard and sideburns have gone gray, but there’s a gold earring in his right ear. While he’s a master of the blues idiom, he also covers songs by Sam Cooke and Van Morrison.
Aside from his technical virtuosity, a fire for human rights burns inside of him…\