Blues in its most elemental form will once again step into the spotlight at Thomas Nelson Community College later this month.
The 11th edition of the Hampton Acoustic Blues Revival taking place Saturday, March 31, will feature blues historian and musician Scott Ainslie, the local father-and-son duo Rooster Foot, a female duo called The Grit Pixies as well as the Herbie D Band and Tommy Walker.
Ainslie, a Washington & Lee graduate who has devoted his life to the blues, was deeply influenced by Virginia acoustic blues legend John Jackson who died in 2002. Ainslie first saw Jackson in 1967, at age 15, when Jackson made an appearance at a Mike Seeger concert. His ragtime-tinged style of finger picking opened up new horizons for the young musician.
"John and I went on to become friends for almost 30 years before he passed away," Ainslie was quoted as saying in a 2007 article by Richard Cuccaro. "He was a dear man."
Here's the press release about the event.
11th Annual Hampton Acoustic Blues Revival
Thomas Nelson Community College
Mary T. Christian Auditorium
Saturday, March 31, 2012
“Guitar” Tommy Parker (Guitar workshop): 4-4:45 pm
The Herbie D. Band: 5-5:45 pm
The Grit Pixies: 6-7 pm
Rooster Foot: 7:15-8 pm
Scott Ainslie: 8:15–9:15 pm
Scott Ainslie heard Virginia bluesman and gravedigger, John Jackson (1924-2002) play a couple of songs in the middle of a Mike Seeger concert just outside ofWashington, DC, at Groveton High School back in 1967. Things haven’t been the same since.
Scott started playing guitar a month later and has now spent nearly forty years studying and playing traditional music, visiting and documenting senior musicians in America’s old-time banjo and fiddle music, blues and gospel traditions.
From community concert series and local schools to the Kennedy Center and the renowned Empire Music Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland; Scott Ainslie plays and speaks of the music he loves with passion and authority.
Ainslie’s new CD, Thunder’s Mouth, is an original and moving extension of his work with African and African-American music. It is a powerful body of work that brings together diverse songs and influences from traditional acoustic blues and African-American songs, Ainslie’s original songs, and African solo guitarists blending it into a harmonious whole.
With four CDs, a teaching DVD on the guitar techniques of Delta Blues legend Robert Johnson, and a book on Johnson’s music Robert Johnson/At The Crossroads (Hal Leonard, 1992) to his credit, as a performer and a teacher, Ainslie continues to present programs that are vital and entertaining. He currently makes his home in Brattleboro, Vermont.
Rooster Foot is the duo of Seth Stainback and his father, Keith, on percussion. Seth wrote: “I’m a native Texan, replanted and grown in the Carolina clay. I grew up around music but abandoned the idea of it when I left home and went to work. After being a janitor at Goodwill, a cook, a landscaper, waste plant shoveler, and somewhere along the way getting married, I found my niche as a steelworker. This kept me on the road, honing my skills and chasing a dollar.
I spent most of my time in my truck driving from job to job, chasing a dollar and staying in whatever hotel I could afford to stay in. Like any steelworker worth his salt I eventually lost my wife, my driver’s license and the ability to stay in one place for very long. After a stint at Pearl Harbor working on Navy ships, I got sent to Norfolk, VA to work out there. The work was steady and the pay was good so I stuck around for a while.
Working seven days a week doesn’t leave much room for a social life, so to kill the boredom of staring at hotel walls, I went and bought a cheap guitar and started writing songs again. It reminded me of what it was like to be passionate about something again and decided that life is too short to chase dirty paper. Music keeps me sane. Its not a choice I make, it’s a natural reflex to me. Everything that moves is a rhythm and every sound a melody. From wheels churning down the interstate, to eight-pound hammers against the steel hull of a warship. Everyday is a song. The heat, the scars, the dirt, the women, every gain and every loss--we all sing the same songs.”
THE GRIT PIXIES
In a scene dominated by bluesmen, Grit Pixies deliver more sound per square inch than your average blues duo – in cute dresses to boot. With one guitar, two voices, multiple harmonicas, and plenty of personality, this dynamic duo, featuring Eliza Lynn on guitar & vocals and Jill Fromewick on harmonica, take up where old-school blues legends leave off. Inspired by harmonica and guitar duos of the past (Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Fred McDowell & Johnny Woods) and students of the great Cephas & Wiggins, Grit Pixies inject modern attitude and style into their own tunes as well as the work of their blues heroes. At their live show, the pair’s chops mingle with signature on-stage comic relief, leading one critic to proclaim: “These young women may be the new face and sound of blues in this century.” (Times Argus, Vermont).
Jill’s main inspiration is Phil Wiggins, and she has been fortunate enough to also have studied with harmonica greats including Joe Filisko, Dennis Gruenling, and Annie Raines. She lives in Asheville, NC.
“Enormous talent” proclaims Putumayo World Music of Eliza Lynn, who sings with a “big, room-filling voice and wields her guitar and banjo against a sensual, sassy backdrop of jazz-flavored blues, old-time country folk and soul” (Harp Magazine). Eliza recently moved to Nashville, TN, and recorded and released her 2009 release, Haven, with producer Thomm Jutz (producer/guitarist for Nanci Griffith). Her studies with John Cephas continue to influence her playing.
THE HERBIE D. BAND
Raised in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia, Herbie D. began guitar lessons at an early age. In the beginning, he was taught classical guitar in the finger style. Take that finger style, mix it with Bluegrass (popular in that area), then blend it with Rock & Roll, and you get Herbie’s finger style of guitar playing, which is definitely Blues based with a lot of Appalachian flavor. Herbie has traveled with both regional and national acts as a guitar player, singer and back-up singer. He has made his technique of guitar playing and singing fit with rock, reggae, ska, punk, Motown, country, and of course the “Blues.”
For more than thirty years, Amy Ferebee has been honing her unique musical skills, delighting audiences from D.C. to Dallas and entertaining widely in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Noted for her impressive guitar work and powerful vocals, Ferebee soulfully transports her
listeners with an eclectic mix of Southern Rock-n-Roll and Piedmont Finger Style Blues, along with some nice originals thrown in for good measure. With the Herbie D. Band, she joins the rhythm section on mandolin and guitar, as well as adding vocals with Herbie, helping to create their distinctive sound.
The Herbie D. Band is a powerful acoustic blues band with Herbie D. on acoustic guitar and vocals; Amy Ferebee on mandolin, acoustic guitar, and vocals; Chris Gifford playing the double bass, and Sal Salazar on percussion.
“GUITAR” TOMMY PARKER
Guitar Tommy Parker grew up in Norfolk listening to the hard-core, gutbucket blues his Aunt Willetta played in her house. He was enchanted by the sound and the themes. He attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, and formed a soul music band in his sophomore year to play the fraternities there. Tommy wrote, recorded and released some songs on the Century Records label his senior year, and moved to Boston after graduation. While living in Boston in the early 1970’s, he was personally mentored in the blues by Luther “Georgia Boy” Snake Johnson, a former sideman in Elmore James’ and Muddy Waters’ bands for years.
After returning to Tidewater, Tommy founded the Jade Brothers Blues Band in the summer of 1976 with Mark Brownell, Mike Ingmire, and Marty Spencer. Tommy and bassist Jackie Merritt founded Hobart M. Cable Company in 1978. After living and working in Roanoke for a while, Tommy returned to the area, and with Jackie Merritt and Mark Brownell, formed Blues Xchange in 1983 with Sandy Martin and Lundy Sykes. Vasili Simmons replaced Lundy Sykes in 2005.
Tommy was present at the inception of Natchel’ Blues Network in 1984 with Chase Jackson, Ernie Williams, Beth Jarock and Jackie Merritt. Attorney Sandy Martin of Blues Xchange prepared all the documents necessary for incorporation.
In 1985, Blues Xchange entered a Battle of the Bands competition sponsored by WNOR FM-99 and won out over 175 groups that had initially entered, receiving a first place prize of over $16,000 worth of musical equipment from Alpha Music.
Straight Up Blues Band, created in 2005, featured Tommy with Earl Holiday, Jimmy Williams and Robert Hart on drums, subsequently replaced by the late Ron Carozzoni.
Currently, Tommy is a professor of English at Tidewater Community College, and also a tutor in the Writing Center. His understanding of the blues continues to deepen as he explores both its acoustic and electric aspects.
[Bios compiled by Beth Jarock]
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