If ever there was a player who deserves to be venerated as a true living blues guitar maestro, here is the guy. He pulls off razzle-dazzle stuff that virtually nobody else can muster.
If ever you hear people say that the old blues are crude and primitive, let them hear some of the best of the best, the intricate ragtime guitar pickers of the golden era, like Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller, or amazing jazzy blues guitar solo-stylists like Lonnie Johnson. Almost every blues fan in the early stages asked the perennial question when hearing these string giants, “Yeah, but who is the other guy playing with him?” Of course, there was no “other guy.” Those mind-boggling “muscianers” were brilliant super virtuosos, en par with the best musicians of all times in any genre. They played such intricate and complicated fingerpicking with a walking bass beat on the top strings and snazzy solo lines on the treble strings while miraculously playing melody in the middle that it sounded like a string ensemble. Most guitarists today just marvel at their breathtaking demigod skills and even those daring mortals who attempt to emulate those maestros can spend a lifetime working at it and just get “pretty good” – but there are a few people on the planet who come close to mastering the styles of those geniuses of bygone days.
Foremost among them is a diminutive guy in Pennsylvania who is really an acoustic guitar monster, the biggest meanest of them all, the Sauroposeidon of the acoustic blues guitar. They failed to include him in the Rolling Stone Top 100 best guitarist list, but don’t let that fool you. It shows you what they know. Ari Eisinger was left off because only he plays old, archaic, unpopular music. In this website devoted to traditional blues, he ranks right up there on the very top!
Close your eyes and listen to Pennsylvania bluesman Ari Eisinger play and sing and you will enjoy a thoroughly rewarding musical experience. You will believe unquestionably that he is the walking reincarnate of the old time ragtime pickers. He plays with such dazzling, seemingly effortless mastery, feeling every nuance and inflection while effortlessly whipping out the most complicated finger-picking patterns. You will think there are three people playing and he not only hits every note, he plays so beautifully, so heartfelt and stunningly, all you can do is gasp for air. Realistically, within all reason and without doubt, Ari Eisinger gets as close to perfection as any player on the planet when it comes to mastering the old ragtime & country blues style. Words, however, are just words. Listen to Ari Eisinger play and sing the 1920s and 30s blues in its full stylistic spectrum and the debate is over. Here is the boldest accolade of all and its not an angstrom too thick: Hearing string-dazzler Ari Eisinger play is the perfect experience in modern day to revive the music of the most brilliant and influential guitarists whose scratchy old records and poor original sound quality would otherwise never be heard again in their true form. It is en par with listening to Izhak Perlman play Mozart. Eisinger’s beautiful interpretations and sublime artistry immortalizes the great musical masters of the blues with boundless joy and loveliness.
Ironically, despite all that he is relatively unknown. Musician, musicologist, preservationist, and teacher, all that, yet Eisinger’s career has not ascended even close to his level of artistry. He is a renowned and revered teacher and a highly respected artist of Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop making a series of acclaimed instructional DVDs featuring the old players styles and techniques, but he has only two CDs for sale and you can’t even get them on i-tunes. Even among blues fans he is not a well-known entity commensurate with his mastery. Perhaps because he does not write original songs, is not a guitar innovator and does not create new trends he is not as highly acclaimed as he should be. A genius of his magnitude should be playing the most important concert halls of the world. This is the plight of a bluesman. Whatever it is, one thing is for sure. Nobody today, and that means nobody, can play the old blues like Ari Eisinger. Listening to him is a sheer delight.