This year’s International Blues Challenge winner in the duo/solo category, Jon Shain, is a musicians’ musician. A talented blues guitarist, an accomplished songwriter, a brilliant teacher, and a sought-after producer. Jon brings a special energy to all he touches and easily garners fans with his undoubtable talent, quick wit, and ready smile.
“Winning the Blues Challenge
was crazy, I still can’t believe it happened,” said Shain. “I made it to the
finals in 2008 with FJ Ventre and wasn’t sure I would go again. When you
are competing with 160 of the best blues performers from around the world it is
just humbling to be on the same stage. I am so grateful for the experience.”
Recently signing with longtime friend Hugh Southard of the prestigious Blue Mountain Artists, Shain has joined a roster of some of the most accomplished performers of roots music on tour today and has a slate of high-profile festival dates ahead of him this year.
Jon Shain is a veteran singer-songwriter who’s been turning heads for years with his words, his fiery acoustic guitar work, and his evolved musical style – combining improvised piedmont blues with bluegrass, swing, and ragtime. His most recent solo disc, Gettin’ Handy with the Blues: A Tribute to the Legacy of WC Handy, was released in January, 2018. Shain’s newest release is the gorgeous roots album, Tomorrow Will Be Yesterday Soon, recorded along with longtime collaborator FJ Ventre.
Jon grew up in Haverhill,
Massachusetts, a Merrimack River mill town that had already seen its better
days by the time he was a child in the 1970s. His family’s business was a small
textile dyeing company, and he worked in the factory during the summers
throughout his teens. At the same time, he began to discover his love of
American roots music and songwriting, specifically drawn to the narratives
about regular people and themes of social justice.
Shain headed south to North
Carolina in 1986, to study American History at Duke University and to continue
his musical journey, as well. In addition to studying with jazz professor Paul
Jeffrey, he also had the good fortune to learn the Piedmont blues tradition
firsthand by playing in Big Boy Henry’s backing band. It was at this time that
he also got to meet and play with John Dee Holeman and a number of great older
NC blues players. Shain’s classes in school were heavily concentrated in
southern history, English, and world religions. That mixture of the academic
environment and real-world blues music is what has most informed his artistic
Shain cut his touring teeth
from 1989-1998 founding the Chapel Hill, NC folk-rock group, Flyin’ Mice and
their spin-off group, WAKE. The band performed with acts such as David Grisman,
Tony Rice Unit, Hot Tuna, and the Dixie Dregs; he released four CDs, and played
clubs, schools, and festivals up and down the East Coast, building a legion of
After his band’s breakup,
Shain went solo, returning to his roots in the folk & blues circuit. In
addition to the album with Joe Newberry and a live album with Jon Shain Trio,
Jon has released eight studio albums, working with studio luminaries such as
Dave Mattacks, Tom Dube, and Chris Stamey, along the way. As a guest artist,
Jon has recorded with Jim Avett, Greg Humphreys, Dana Kletter, and many others
and his instrumental music has been placed in several documentary films and
commercials, as well as on shows on the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet.
The last few years have seen
Shain headlining listening rooms on the East Coast, in the Midwest and in
Europe, as well as opening shows for John Hiatt, Keb’ Mo’, Little Feat, and
others. When Shain is not recording, producing other artists, or performing, he
stays busy giving private instruction in Piedmont blues fingerstyle guitar, and
teaching group workshops in songwriting and blues guitar.