When it comes to keeping the traditional blues alive and well in the 21st Century, any discussion about contemporary American musicians has to include the venerable Scott Ainslie. Bluesman Ainslie could pass the audition to act a burly outdoor Grissly Adams in a movie remake, and he could easily pass as a lumberjack, but all of this belies that he is actually a sensitive singer, a lively bluesman in the tradition of the original country blues, including the Delta, Ragtime and Piedmont traditions. The guy actually has a sweet touch to his music and will infatuate any blues lover with his deep roots, yet gentle style.
Ainslie is a true master of the old traditions, not just as performer but also as a serious blues historian and musicologist. Here is a guy who gets the African-American blues deep into his soul, having connected with it on every level from its origins. The bard sings in a clear tenor and he has perfected his guitar technique over decades of performances. By now, Ainslie is one of the most important cultural protagonists of the old blues and Southern musical traditions, mostly rooted in African American musicology, a musical forms which he honors and promotes.
Ainslie is a beautiful stylist who respects the country blues and acoustic blues music, feels it deep down to his soul and understand its essence. He is not just an important bridge to the original blues, he is an important teacher and protagonist of the genre.
All that is good and well, but it won’t mean doodley-squat if it isn’t backed up by the music, and Ainslie can keep up on the chops with the best of them. An articulate, superlative guitarist in both slide and finger-picking, a fine singer and song stylist, Ainslie is the real deal. Guitarists may know him well for his DVD “Robert Johnson – Guitar Signature Licks Series”, and when it comes to Robert Johnson, Ainslie is among the foremost players who pay tribute and homage to the old master. Indeed, Ainslie is sought after as a performer of the late RJ’s material, especially in 2011 as the blues world celebrates RJ’s 100 year birthday.
When you strip away the cultural awards, the merits of teaching and preserving the blues, the community work, the scholarly contribution, and all that, and when you end up with just a guy standing there by himself playing the guitar and singing you an old blues song, you’d have to be an icy cold hearted soul not to feel Ainslie’s music right down to your soul. This is the true-hearted nitty-gritty blues performed by a contemporary master. Look him up!