A Phi Beta Kappa and honors graduate of Washington & Lee University, Ainslie came of age during the Civil Rights era, and cultivated a powerful affinity for cross-cultural exchange. He 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.
Armed with a variety of instruments – vintage guitars, a fretless gourd banjo, a one-string, homemade diddley bow (aka cigar box guitar) and carefully chosen historical personal anecdotes of his encounters with senior musicians across the South – Ainslie brings the history, roots music, and sounds of America alive.
On stage, in educational teaching concerts, workshops, and school residencies, Ainslie explores the African and European roots of American music and culture. His easy, conversational way with audiences and cross-disciplinary approach to the music consistently garners rave reviews from presenters, audiences, students, and teachers, alike. He is a masterful and thoughtful historian, storyteller, and musician.
Ainslie transcribed the original recordings and published a book on Delta blues legend Robert Johnson [Robert Johnson/At The Crossroads (Hal Leonard, 1992)], and has an instructional DVD on Johnson’s guitar work [Robert Johnson’s Guitar Techniques (Hal Leonard, 1997)].
His performances present a wonderful palette of sounds and stories that will delight the ear, awaken the mind, and satisfy the heart.