Take a musical tour of roots, history of the Blues

in Arts by

The University of South Carolina Beaufort Center for the Arts presents Scott Ainslie, a master of American Acoustic Blues, to its stage on Thursday, October 9, at 7:30 p.m.

American Acoustic Blues master Scott Ainslie will perform at USCB Center for the Arts on Oct. 9 at 7:30.
American Acoustic Blues master Scott Ainslie will perform at USCB Center for the Arts on Oct. 9 at 7:30.

Ainslie is an expert in the Southern Appalachian fiddle and banjo tradition, as well as the Piedmont and Delta Blues. He specializes in performing and presenting programs on the African roots of American music and culture. He is a traditional acoustic Blues singer, guitarist, historian and songwriter with personal roots in the Civil Rights era and a great affection for cross-cultural exchange. A musician all his life, Ainslie took up guitar at age 15 after hearing Virginia Bluesman John Jackson play a couple of songs in the middle of a Mike Seeger concert in 1967.

“I’ve spent the past 40 years looking for the right story — the right set of facts, the right bit of history — to introduce a song,” says Ainslie.

The performance will offer attendees an intimate, poignant reflection on a moment in history capturing the geography, the people and the music of the Mississippi Delta in the post Civil War period of American history. The evening’s history tour is presented as a series of vignettes coupling Ainslie’s voice with the visual artistry of a personal collection of original and archival photos from the Library of Congress.  As such, the performance honors the African and American roots of the tradition and presents a mesmerizing tour of the music and the history of the Blues.

“The tradition of acoustic blues is designed to emotionally move the listener by handing down the knowledge and ‘telling’ the story of a people who were kicked around quite a bit that also had the tenacity to get up, sing and dance quite joyously in celebrating survival,” says Ainslie.

Coming of age during the Civil Rights era, Ainslie approaches the tradition with the care and respect it is due. He was welcomed and accepted as an equal by many of his mentors including George Higgs of Tarboro, NC; Etta Baker of Morganton, NC; John Jackson of Fairfax Station, VA; and Willie Malloy of Fayetteville, NC.

In addition to his active performance schedule, Ainslie has a decade of experience teaching elements of African and African-American music to students of all ages, both in the classroom and from the stage. He remains deeply committed to putting living performances in front of young people, hoping to inspire them to consider the tradition as their own medium of expression. Ainslie was as a teaching artist of African Roots in the Beaufort County School District in the 1990’s and performed in Beaufort’s Waterfront Park several years ago. During his visit to the Beaufort area he will deliver a teaching concert and an after-school workshop at Beaufort Academy.

The term “Blues” has roots that pre-date the music known as “Blues” by at least two centuries. The Blues also developed differently in different regions of the country so that people speak of ‘Texas Blues’, ‘Louisiana Blues’, ‘Chicago Blues’ and the like. But the music can be divided most broadly into two distinct styles: Delta Blues from the Mississippi Delta and Piedmont Blues, also known as East Coast Blues, which were played in the more eastern states, from Washington, DC all the way to Florida. Blues guitar styles gave rise to rock ‘n’ roll and fueled the folk revival of the 1960’s.

“Scott is a powerful musician, a fine singer, and a masterful storyteller,” says Bonnie Hargrove, director at the Center for the Arts.

Ainslie has five solo CDs to his name with a sixth, “The Last Shot Got Him,” scheduled for release later this month. He maintains an active recording, performing and teaching schedule that carries him around the country, to Canada and Europe. Ainslie has received numerous awards and grants for his work documenting and presenting traditional music. These include grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and from the Folklife Section of the North Carolina Arts Council.

Admission to see Scott Ainslie’s perform is Adults, $25; Senior, $20; Students, $15. Detailed information about this and upcoming events at the center can be found at www.uscbcenterforthearts.com. Tickets can be ordered online at www.uscbcenterforthearts.com or by calling the box office at 843-521-4145.