March 2, 2018 Grosswendt and Salem-Schatz to bring pre-war blues/country music to Harrisburg

Martin Grosswendt and Susanne Salem-Schatz bring their compelling voices, uncanny sense of harmony, and deep grounding in traditional country blues and old-time to Harrisburg for a Susquehanna Folk Music Society concert on Friday, March 2, 2018, at 7:30 p.m. at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn, 5300 N. Front Street, Harrisburg.

Grosswendt is internationally known as an interpreter of prewar blues and other roots music, while Salem-Schatz slips into any genre and makes it her own, appearing as soulful blues singer one minute and sassy honky-tonk gal the next. Their performances strike a deep emotional chord as they share their deep love of and respect for the roots of classic blues, old time, and early country, making the music their own and presenting it with style, grace, and wit.

Concert tickets are $24 General Admission, $22 for SFMS members and $10 for students ages 3-22. Advance tickets are available online at or by calling toll-free (800) 838-3006.

I was able to have a delightful conversation with multi-instrumentalist Martin Grosswendt. Just by talking to him I can tell that his and Suzanne’s concert is sure to be filled with lots of warmth, great music, and laughs!

FOLKMAMA: Tell me about your background. How did you come to love traditional music from the South?

GROSSWENDT: I’ve always loved singing, for as long as I could remember, but I just kind of fell into the music when I was about 12 or 13 when I got hooked on a Jim Kweskin Jugband album and just about wore it out!  And then a couple of years later I started playing guitar and I discovered that I could learn to copy the noises that I heard on records and so Mississippi John Hurt’s album on Vanguard Today was just a tremendous, tremendous influence on me when I was about 13 or 14 years old. I learned a lot of guitar playing just from that album.

I’ve never taken formal lessons, I was just in a situation where I was lucky enough to hear a lot of great people play. I went to Tryworks Coffeehouse in New Bedford, which is sort of legendary, starting in 1968. And Maggi Peirce, who is a great singer from Belfast and has become a great storyteller, ran that. Most weeks it was just local acts, kids playing, but she started to bring in some wonderful traditional singers; Lou Killian, Norman Kennedy, and Helen Schneyer.

The last year I attending high school, in tenth grade, I was in DC at that point and I got to hear John Jackson several times, who was just a remarkable Piedmont Blues guitar player, from Virginia. And I also got to know this banjo player, Reed Martin, and I learned a lot of stuff from watching him play. He was kind enough to make me a reel to reel tape recording of a whole lot of tunes which became my bible for old-time banjo. But he also turned me on to Robert Johnson and around the same time I discovered Son House and Blind Blake, a great east coast guitar player, and a bunch of other Delta players including Charlie Patton who just was amazing.

So that was all in my teens and from there I was just lucky enough to be around people who took me seriously and I was precocious enough on my instruments and I had a good enough sense of humor so that people took me under their wing.

FOLKMAMA: When you started touring, did you play mostly on your own?

GROSSWENDT For the first part of my career I was usually by myself, but I toured with Utah Phillips and I played with Mary McCaslin and Jim Ringer when they were on the east coast. For awhile I lived in Saratoga and of course I washed dishes at Café Lena and I got to see a lot of fantastic people play there. I lived in Vermont in the 70s and I got to do a lot of session work at Philo Records with Bruce Phillips, Mary McCaslin and Jim Ringer, and I believe I got to play on one of Jay Unger and Lynn Hardy’s records too.

FOLKMAMA: How would you describe your style?

GROSSWENDT: I self identify as “a working guitar player with a short attention span”. So I’ve always heard these noises that I’ve wanted to make. And it’s been five string banjo and guitar and mandolin and some fiddle and dobro and pedal steel guitar and just a bunch of different things. Guitar and five string banjo are probably what I have been most consistent at.

FOLKMAMA: What are you most passionate about?

GROSSWENDT: I just love a lot of Southern music from before World War Two. Part of what fascinates me is the interface between the back and white traditions. So I switch back and forth a lot. I love old time music, I really like old time country music, and I love Delta and East Coast blues. There are just so many good types of music to play that I’ve just sort of followed my nose.

And I think that’s what the culture was like down there as well. Black and white musicians lived cheek by jowl and I’m sure that they played together at times, and the repertoire went back and forth. There were always songs and licks and techniques going back and forth between the races.

FOLKMAMA: When musicians were playing during that time period, do you think they thought much about distinctions between what the different races were playing?

GROSSWENDT: The taxonomy and classification of music being “black” or “white” really occurred when the record companies (all these small record companies owned mostly by people who made Victrolas) went in to record artists. They essentially invented these categories. They invented the category of the “Race Record” which was for black audiences, and “Hillybilly” music which was for working class white people in the south, regardless of whether they were in the hills or not.

The “Race Records” were usually blues because that’s all that the record companies let itinerant or community musicians from down there record. Charlie Patton, one of the great Delta Blues singers who was the first guy from the Mississippi Delta to record extensively, did all kinds of music. He did country songs, he played party songs, he did blues, he did standards, he did whatever his audience wanted to hear, whether that audience was black or white.

FOLKMAMA: So tell us a little more about what we’ll hear during Friday’s show. What instruments will you be playing?

GROSSWENDT I’ll play guitar and a little mandolin and I’ll play some banjo. The repertoire won’t be strictly blues. We do some classic blues, we do some old time music, what they call hillbilly music, we do some standards, and we do a few contemporary things. We do some old time music by Doc Bogs, and we can’t seem to make it through the night without doing at least one George Jones tune.

FOLKMAMA: Tell me about Susanne Salem-Schatz.

GROSSWENDT: She’s just a phenomenal singer. I’m really lucky to be touring with her. I’ll tell you how we met. I used to play rhythm guitar for an old-time jam in an Irish pub every Sunday night for about 12 years. One night I was singing something and it came to the chorus and I heard this voice immediately behind me start in with this really terrific, compelling harmony. And it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. And I guess it made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up too and several of the people around us and I couldn’t believe it and I turned around and saw her and that’s how we met. About three and a half years ago we started touring together as a duo.

We try to only play at places where people will like the music and will listen. We are looking forward to playing for the Central Pennsylvania audience at Fort Hunter!


Blue and Ragtime with Del Rey on Thursday, April 6th at the Ware Center in Lancaster

West Coast blues guitar and ukulele queen Del Rey brings her quirky, infectious stage presence and command of blues and ragtime to Lancaster on Thursday, April 6th. A 7:30 p.m. concert is sponsored jointly by the Susquehanna Folk Music Society and the Ware Center concert. The concert will be held at Millersville University’s Ware Center located at 42 N. Prince Street in Lancaster.

Del Rey is known for performing on both the resonator guitar and the resonator ukulele and is a foremost authority on the music of blues giant Memphis Minnie.

Del Rey began her musical training in classical guitar at the tender age of four. When she hit her teens and found blues music, the serene classical numbers fell to the side. Her music soon rang with the soul of blues, but jingled a little, too, with ragtime and jazz, and even some rock flavoring to stir things up.

Her distinctive fingerstyle playing has a fascinating complexity such that she makes her solo instruments sound like a whole band. Rags, blues, and tunes of the early 20th century are her specialty, even as she writes new music to add to the tradition.

Rey has taught and played all over the world, and has toured with Steve James, Suzy Thompson, and Adam Franklin. She writes about music for various publications, including Acoustic Guitar Magazine, and is a popular instructor at numerous guitar camps such as Ashokan and the Swannanoa Gathering.

Concert tickets are $25 General Admission, $22 for SFMS members and $5 for students ages 4-22. Advance tickets are available through the Ware Center Box Office in Millersville or Lancaster or by calling (717) 871-7600. For more information, visit the Susquehanna Folk Music Society website at


Below Hank Imhof, an area guitarist and blues enthusiast who is a favorite on the winery and coffeehouse circuit, tells about how purchasing a Del Rey teaching video was a “game changer’ for him.


The name Del Ray kept on showing up in my music studies, so after taking some time to read about her music, I decided to purchase one of her learning DVD’s called The Blues Styles of Memphis Minnie published by Homespun. I learned that Del Rey is considered one of the finest interpreters of the music of Memphis Minnie –a blues guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter whose recording career lasted from the 1920s to the 1950s. Memphis Minnie wrote, played and recorded many great blues songs, some of the best known being “Bumble Bee”, “Nothing in Rambling”, and “Me and My Chauffeur Blues“. She has inspired many great musicians, male and female, among them Del Rey.

While working with the video I have been really floored by Del Rey’s playing abilities and style. I started in and have very much enjoyed the lessons. Del Ray is very infectious and teaches with a light heart and a lot of smiles. I also bought the other Del Ray DVD Boogie Woogie Guitar before even finishing the first. I’m looking forward to spending as much time as I can to learn from these video lessons!

My discovery of Del Ray and her music talents have been a game changer for me personally. Del Ray’s study of blues, blues history and guitar along with her beautiful spirit and a bunch of smiles are a force to be enjoyed. Her guitar skills on her steel bodied resonator guitar set up a groove and infectious sound that is wonderful.

Del Rey’s music reflects a deep study of black history, blues history and especially channeling the female perspective of all of the above through the soul of her hero Memphis Minnie. Del Ray sings and tells stories about Memphis Minnie while adding her own musicianship and spirit to everything she plays and sings. It’s very much like hearing the two of them play together on the same stage.

Equally inspiring to me has been learning more about black history, black women’s history and the power of women, all women. Del Ray is furthering the awareness of this music and an history that maybe you’ve never heard before.

Please come and enjoy Del Ray, I’ll be there!



Ruthie Foster Comes to Harrisburg October 16th!


For one night, Austin musician Ruthie Foster migrates to our Northern capital.

“I love my work. I think that’s my fuel for all that fire onstage.”

So says Rruthie-foster-bootsuthie Foster, a captivating performer who uses her strong, soulful voice to inspire, lift and move audiences.

Foster combines elements of blues, folk, soul, and gospel to create a distinctive style that has won her legions of fans both in the U.S. and abroad. During concerts she exudes energy and passion while moving effortlessly from one powerful song to another.

On October 16th at 7:30 PM, Foster comes to Harrisburg courtesy of the Susquehanna Folk Music Society and the Blues Society of Central Pennsylvania. The event will take place at the Abbey Bar of the Appalachian Brewery Company in Harrisburg. Unlike some of the shows held at the Abbey Bar this is a sit-down concert in a listening-room environment. The venue is located at 50 North Cameron Street in Harrisburg. Tickets are $24 General Admission, $21 for SFMS and BSCP members and $10 for students and can be purchased at or at the door.

Although Foster often performs with a band, this show will be solo. She says that she is looking forward to the change in pace.

“I get more freedom with the direction of the show, and can work with the energy in the room differently, she says. “In some ways, playing solo is more relaxing than with the band and in other ways, it’s more challenging.”

Ruthie Foster is one of the most decorated blues artists performing today.

Besides her 2010, 2012 and 2014 Grammy nominations, Ruthie has been recognized by organizations such as the Austin Music Awards (2007, 2008 and 2013 Best Female Vocalist), Blues Music Awards (2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013), Living Blues Awards (2010 Critics’ Poll Winner and 2011 nominee for Blues Female Artist of the Year).

Ruthie says that she’s equally excited about all the awards that she receives.

“They’re all pretty awesome. I don’t think I could pick a favorite. Being recognized is a great honor.”

A native of Gause, Texas, Ruthie is part of a large gospel-singing family and it’s obvious that many of her original songs are influenced by the full throated and joyous music of her youth.

“Music was all around me growing up,” she said.” I sang with my relatives in church and started playing the organ before I could even reach the pedals. On the radio in Texas, I got to listen to everything from Conjunto to blues.”

All that listening has led her to embrace a wide variety of styles. “I think that there’s a little bit of everything in my work, “she said.”I love the old soul, blues and gospel singers like Etta James, Sam Cooke, Mahalia Jackson and Howlin Wolf. Along with my originals when I perform I also do some Mississippi John Hurt and even a traditional Georgia Sea Islands song called Travelin Shoes.”

Sometimes she’ll throw in a cover song like Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire. Her treatment of the song is so innovative, that you might not even recognize this iconic 1960s favorite.

“I like to cover songs that are timeless and still relevant,” she said. “I look for songs that I can do a little something new with it and something that moves my spirit.”

Ruthie wrote about half the songs on her newest album Promise of a Brand New Day. On the CD is a beautiful a capella song, “Brand New Day” which Ruthie wrote for her grandmother.

“I wanted to dedicate this to her and her spirit,” she said. “In church she used to tell us all the time to ‘follow the promise of a brand new day’”

The CD was produced in LA by rapper and bassist Meshell N’degeocello who Ruthie called ‘an inspiring artist’ who was ‘very accommodating’ in the studio.

“She made it very easy for me to just come in and sing,” Ruthie said. “Her playing was impeccable, I’m so proud of this record.”

Now living in Austin, Texas, Ruthie says that she doesn’t get as much time as she’d like to enjoy one of the country’s music meccas.

“I’m out of town so much, I really only get to play there a couple times a year at most,” she said. “But it’s a great place to live, and there is a whole lot of music going on there at any time. “


The Appalachian Brewing Company is located at 50 N. Cameron St in Harrisburg. Concert tickets are $24 general admission and $10 for students. Tickets and information can be found online at or by calling Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006. This concert is sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lois Lehrman Grass Foundation.


—-This article appeared, with minor adaptations, in The Burg Magazine’s October 2016 edition. Written by Jess Hayden. Used with permissions.



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

Workshop w/ Blues Master SCOTT AINSLIE, April 2nd, HBG, PA (concert too!)

Scot smallIf you are a blues guitarist or a guitarist who just wants to learn more about the music that rock came from (including Delta Blues, Slide Guitar, Open Tunings, Piedmont/Ragtime Style fingerpicking Blues) then you should plan on registering for Scott Ainslie’s “Blues, Give Me Your Right Hand” workshop which will be held on Saturday, April 2, 2016 from 2-5 pm at the Fort Hunter Centennial Barn located at 5300 N Front Street in Harrisburg. The workshop is sponsored by the Susquehanna Folk Music Society.

Blues, Give Me Your Right Hand This 90 minute workshop will focus on right hand techniques used by acoustic blues masters. We’ll look at Mississippi John Hurt’s ragtime picking, Rev. Gary Davis’s stunning two-finger picking, Robert Johnson’s thumb-heavy attack, and work toward building on your understanding of coordinating the thumb and fingers without sacrificing power and versatility. Bring a guitar and come join us. Participants are also welcome to bring an audio recording device, paper and pencil are recommended.

The cost of the workshop is $45. We are asking that you get your workshop tickets by March 29th at Scott Ainslie will also be featured in concert at 7:30 on the evening of the workshop. A separate ticket is required for this concert and is available on-line or at the door.

Ainslie is the author of “Robert Johnson/At The Crossroads”—a book of transcriptions, history, and annotated lyrics from Johnson’s famous solo blues recordings of 1936-37. He is an experienced teacher and has an instructional DVD on Johnson’s music on Starlicks Master Sessions.

Ainslie has studied with elder musicians on both sides of the color line, in the Old-Time Southern Appalachian fiddle and banjo traditions, as well as Black Gospel and Blues. He plays this music with affection, authority, and power.

He is a legacy instructor at both Common Ground On The Hill in Westminster, MD and at the Swannanoa Gathering’s Guitar Week. His popularity is such that his courses often fill up within the first 15 minutes of open on-line registration!

Questions? E-Mail Scott Ainslie at

Bluesman Guy Davis to perform in Harrisburg, PA Sunday, February 22nd.

To Guy Davis, the stories behind Southern blues are as important as the familiar music that defines the genre. His songs are full of legendary tales, old and new. Davis is the son of the great actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. He says his blues music is inspired by the Southern speech of his grandmother. “What draws me into the blues, I think, is the music not only of the instruments but the music of the language,” Davis says.

Guy Davis has made a long and varied career of performing– re-creating the music of blues masters, singing and writing his own songs, performing and creating theater, and doing residencies with children. His work has earned him nine Handy Award nominations over the years, including Best Traditional Blues Album, Best Blues Song, and two for Best Acoustic Blues Artist.

Guy Davis will perform in a Susquehanna Folk Music Society sponsored concert at 7:30, Sunday, February 22, 2015 at the Appalachian Brewing Company located at 50 N. Cameron St, Harrisburg, PA 17101. For tickets and information visit

Below is a FOLKMAMA interview done on 2-12-15

FOLKMAMA: I love your music, but you are a terrific storyteller too. How integral is storytelling to your performances?

GUY: The way that I do things, there are always some stories connected to what I do. I don’t always tell the same stories. The stories that I tell may come from my one man show ‘The Adventure of Fishy Waters: In Bed with the Blues’ Other stories might come with whatever happened to me that morning.

Stories, I find ,are what connects all human beings. Even if they are just very personal stories, even if they are political stories. Stories of Jews, stories of Palestinians, stories of me being at Buchenwald Concentration Camp. I’ve got all kinds of stories, I don’t necessarily plan which I’m going to tell.

FOLKMAMA: I’ve heard you called “The Ambassador for the Blues” and I’m wondering if you could talk about your experiences overseas, especially among people who maybe have not heard the blues before.

GUY: I travel around playing the blues to places where you might not think that I would get. I went to Greenland a couple of years ago and I remember standing in front of an iceberg singing Robert Johnson’s Walking Blues. Not a lot of people had heard that there, but maybe a few.

Traveling around the world with the blues has really given me the opportunity to see first hand what is going on politically in many places. I got a chance a few years ago to play in Russia, and then a year later I played in the Ukraine. I was in Kiev in the Ukraine and there were buses full of protesters –people saying that they wanted the Ukraine to adopt the Euro instead of the Russian Ruble. The day after I left the Ukraine was that day that the statue of Lenin got knocked down.

But just to let you know that this world is a big place and people tend to receive me in a way that has to do with music and heart, story and enjoyment and not so much politically. I’m just noticing as I’m going along that it’s very political out here.

FOLKMAMA: I’ve always been curious about something. You hear a lot about the old blues masters like Robert Johnson–did the blues originate with them are did it come from some earlier source?

GUY: Blues music really started as work songs. But in time when black people in particular had leisure time and went dancing, those lyrics would come up in those songs sung while those folks were dancing. Blind Lemon Jefferson, one of the early blues men, said that people dancing way back in his early days looked like people stomping. So people were responding to rhythms and social dancing was evolving.

FOLKMAMA: You obviously know a lot about the blues. It’s such a rich tradition, how did you go about learning about it?

GUY: I learned a lot about the blues by talking to a lot of people, and of course some of it is conjecture that I use to pull all the things together. I wasn’t there at the end of slavery when men and woman had to live during very tough and brutal times. Black men and women in particular. And the people who were there before the blues began–before the 20th century in my opinion–I don’t know if I could live that rough a life. When I listen to the lyrics of the songs, when I listen to the rhythms, the meanings, the melodies–I’m hearing the story of America itself. When I perform I don’t try to teach people, I just try to entertain. But I find when I perform, a lot can’t be learned.

FOLKMAMA: I know that you work a lot with kids in schools. Is your aim to move the Blues tradition forward and to introduce a new generation to the Blues?

GUY: When I teach there are a few things going on. First off I want to inform, to let the students know about the early blues and where it came from and how to tell the difference between the East Coast Blues and the Delta Blues. But on a selfish level I’m hoping that these kids will be my audience in another 20 years because I intend to still be playing and singing.

FOLKMAMA: So what should people expect during the concert? Maybe someone who has never seen you, someone who might not even know the blues?

GUY: Well, it will certainly be a lot of fun because I’m an entertainer. When the guitar is broken and the strings pop, I’ll be able to tell stories. When my mouth didn’t work I would draw pictures.

I would expect that people would get a sense of how it felt to be sitting on a front porch, maybe a 100 years ago, hearing some early music. Or maybe like back in the 20s or 30s hearing musicians like Blind Blake or Son House or Bukka White or Robert Johnson. I want folks to get a sense of the social adventure. Folks will just be sitting in an audience in rows of seats –but that’s all good. What I do is not meant to isolate anyone. It’s meant to expose what the Blues is. Just like I was a kid many years ago and I would and hear folksingers standing on stage, and it was magic. That’s what I want to create. Magic.Guy Davis