Acoustic Bluesman Scott Ainslie to appear in Harrisburg, PA on April 2, 2016

Scott Ainslie, an acoustic blues player who brings the history, roots music, and sounds of the rural South to life, comes to Harrisburg on Saturday, April 2, 2016 for an evening concert sponsored by Susquehanna Folk Music Society in collaboration with the Blues Society of Central Pennsylvania. The concert will be held at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg. It begins at 7:30 p.m.

Concert tickets are $22 General Admission, $18 for SFMS and BSCP members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets online at or toll-free (800) 838-3006.

For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at

I had a chance to talk to Scott Ainslie about the upcoming concert, his music, and the instruments that he plays.


FOLKMAMA: You haven’t played for the Susquehanna Folk Music Society before, so we’re excited about your concert! Where else are you heading on this tour?

SCOTT AINSLIE: I’m starting at Godfrey Daniels in Bethlehem before coming to you, and then I’ll head out to the Midwest, to Wisconsin and Chicago

FOLKMAMA: Tell me a little about yourself.

SCOTT AINSLIE: I’m an acoustic blues musician. I started playing music when I was about 3 when my mother found me at the piano picking out melodies for the records that she listened to. I played everything that I could get my hands on during as I was growing up including the flute which I played in the elementary and middle school band.

A defining moment in my life came at about 15 years old when I heard John Jackson, a magnificent ragtime and blues guitarist, play in the middle of a Mike Seeger concert. I just fell out over what he could do with a guitar. And the first great folk scare was in full swing of course, but nobody was playing guitar like that. It was remarkably athletic, interesting, highly syncopated guitar style that I was just floored by.

After having played guitar for a couple of years I wound up falling in with old time musicians and so I studied southern old time banjo and fiddle and the ballad traditions from old time musicians.

From there I wanted to do the same kind of work with black blues and gospel musicians on the other side of the color line in eastern North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia.

So now I have almost five decades of playing stringed instruments and nearly 60 year at playing music.  What that gives me, along with my time with the old people, is a tremendous respect for tradition and also deep pockets in terms of how one goes about communicating with an audience.

FOLKMAMA: So how do you go about telling an audience what you have learned?

SCOTT AINSLIE: When I play I typically tell some stories to orient the audience about a repertoire and genre that might be unfamiliar to them. I’ve got a 30 second, and a minute and a half, and a 2 minute introduction to probably everything that I play and I choose when to talk and when to play. So it’s a lovely combination of music and background information.

FOLKMAMA: Tell me about your repertoire.

SCOTT AINSLIE: So I play a lot of slide guitar. I play a lot of Robert Johnson’s work [Scott transcribed all of Robert’s music and published a landmark book in 1992] as well as Mississippi John Hurt. I play things off of my new record “The Last Shot Got Him”–it’s named after a second line of a Mississippi John Hurt song called “The First Shot Missed Him”. My concerts are largely a tour of a variety of different blues guitar and song styles.

FOLKMAMA: What about originals?

SCOTT AINSLIE I have a select number of original songs that sits well in this repertoire. When I write a song it has to lay next to something that has been sung for a long time. It has to be as durable as a piece of artwork. So I’m careful about what I write and what I ask songs to do. But there are some originals that I like to play and there will be a few in both the sets.

FOLKMAMA: What instruments do you bring with you?

SCOTT AINSLIE: I usually travel with my 1934 Gibson and a 1931 National. Also a gourd banjo and a one-string, homemade diddley bow or cigar box guitar. Since you have been doing focus on the banjo this season, I’ll also bring a homemade clawhammer style banjo that I made in my kitchen when I was 18.

FOLKMAMA: It seems like blues musicians, more than just about any other musicians I know, are very concerned about paying homage to the masters and preserving the traditions. What are your thoughts on this subject?

SCOTT AINSLIE: My strategy for learning traditional music has always been to put myself in front of the oldest and the best musicians that I can find, and stay there until I learn something about the tradition. So I’m a great believer in apprenticeship.

I think that you should allow a tradition to transform you, to change you, before you change it. And some of the musicians that you have had in your series, John Hammond and Rory Block for example have all done this.

It’s especially important for those of us that are white who have crossed the color line to play a style of music that we adore, to do it with respect and care and to do more research than you might have had to do if you were raised in the tradition.

Scot small


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