Jon Shain

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The Latest News from Jon Shain

Gettin' Handy with the Blues

New Years 2018

I'm excited to announce the release of my newest CD, "Gettin' Handy with the Blues - a Tribute to the Legacy of WC Handy". This is my first completely solo acoustic guitar and vocal record. I recorded it in two days this past Fall with FJ Ventre co-producing at his Good Luck Studio. The idea for the project came from Steve Kelly and the Craven Arts Council in New Bern, NC, as part of their American composers series of concerts. It represents a lot of arranging complicated blues and rags for guitar and some serious hours of practicing. I hope you'll check it out! Next up, FJ and I will begin recording our next album of original tunes - many of them co-writes - for a Spring 2018 release.

In other recording news, FJ and I have been busy at his Good Luck Studio producing a bunch of talented artists. This past year, we produced albums for Leah Kaufman, Rick Drost, and Dan Heimsoth. Currently we are in the middle of album production for NC Arts Council grant-winner Barry Gray, and the dynamic singer-songwriter, Karyn Oliver. We are always looking to work with interesting artists.

Check out the tourdates page for upcoming shows in the Southeast, mid-Atlantic, and Northeast.

Happy new year - Peace in 2018!


Photo by Wayne Ebinger

Spring 2017

Hello, everyone! Lots to report since my last website update. Touring is picking up this spring, with trips to Florida and the Midwest along with other mid-Atlantic and Southeast dates. See the tourdates page for more info. FJ Ventre and I have been hard at work collaborating on our new songs, gearing up for recording a new CD later this year. We have the great Ed Butler (who has toured with Red Clay Ramblers and Michelle Shocked) signed on to play drums with us, too. Here is a link to a video of one of the new co-writes: "Song for an Old Friend", video by Eddie Huffman.

In other recording news, FJ and I have been busy at his Good Luck Studio producing a bunch of talented singer-songwriters. This past year, we have worked on forth-coming albums by Rick Drost and Dan Heimsoth, as well as finishing CDs for Suzanne Schmid, Isabel Taylor, and Penny Pierce. We are always looking to work with interesting artists.

I've updated the "Lessons" page with a video of me teaching the Piedmont Blues standard "Step It Up And Go" - so check that out.

Be well!


Crow the Dawn CD cover, artwork by Maria Bilinski Shain

Winter 2016

Hello everyone - First off, the big news - my new CD with Joe Newberry, Crow the Dawn, has just been released. You can find it online on at Joe is an award-winning songwriter in the folk/bluegrass vein and a frequent guest on Prairie Home Companion. Together, we drew from our well of roots-music influences and wrote a bunch of songs exploring common ground and breaking some new ground, too. The album was recorded and produced by Dave Tilley, and we got help from some of North Carolina's finest musicians to round out the project.

In other news, upright bass ace FJ Ventre and I have begun writing a bunch of new songs together - our first writing collaboration in our long shared musical friendship. We will be doing a lot of touring as a duo this year - looking forward to seeing where these new songs take us.

Another exciting development that FJ and I have embarked on is producing other artists at Good Luck Studios. We are in the middle of a recording project for Isabel Taylor and begin recording Suzanne Schmid in February.

In March 2016, FJ and I will embark on our first tour of the Midwest, with shows in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. More information is on the tourdates page. Then, in April, I will be heading down to Florida for a short solo tour. Much of 2016 is still up in the air, so if you'd like me to play your town or would like to host a house concert, please shoot me an email.

Peace in 2016


Spring 2015

Greetings friends! The best way to get the latest, hot-off-the-press news is to sign up on my email list or stay in touch through twitter or facebook - you can find those links on the right side of any page on this site!

Since last I wrote here, I've done a bunch of traveling, supporting my latest CD, Reupholstered. I did my second tour of Europe - in Netherlands and northern Germany - here is tour manager Rob Turner's blog written during the trip. There were also successful trips up the East Coast to New England and down south to Florida. It's always great to see old and new friends on the road.

This past year, I have been writing a new batch of songs with my friend Joe Newberry. Joe is a splendid claw-hammerbanjo player and songwriter of reknown, as well, having recently won a couple of IBMA awards for his tunes as well as being featured on NPR's Prairie Home Companion show. Joe and I will be heading into the studio this spring with Dave Tilley producing the sessions. Dave was the engineer and producer on the Kress Sessions live CD we did a few years ago, and he goes for a very natural and live sound. I'm excited to lay down these tracks and share the new material with you.

Here is a brand new video - directed by Eddie Huffman - of my version of Hank Williams' California Zephyr.

Looking forward to a nice Spring!


Reupholstered CD cover, artwork by Beth Kalb

Summer 2014

Hello everyone - First off, the big news - my new CD, Reupholstered, has just been released. You can find it online on: Reupholstered started as a late-night idea of producer Jackson Hall.The idea was for Hall to assign a favorite song each month for a year, Shain works up an arrangement, and they record a new cover version in Hall's home studio. These would be tunes that Shain would not necessarily be familiar with and artist vetoes were highly discouraged by Hall. In fact, the working title of the album was Jackson Made Me.

But, instead of assigning songs by Piedmont blues artists or other more obvious choices, Hall came up with a quirky list of pop tunes from the last 75 years. They hang together well (at times, surprisingly so). The early part of the 20th century is represented with songs by Cole Porter, Mississippi John Hurt, and Hank Williams. The 60s era is represented in the Jimmy Webb classic Galveston and Never My Love (usually associated with the Association). The 70s brings us B-sides by Harry Nilsson, Elton John, Paul Simon, and Rick Danko, while more modern songwriters Elliott Smith and Frazey Ford (of the Be Good Tanyas) round out the collection.

What started as just a lark of a recording project quickly developed into a more ambitious effort. In addition to Shain's live group - FJ Ventre, John Currie, and Ecki Heins (bass, dobro, and fiddle, respectively) -Shain and Hall leaned on their wide circle of North Carolina-based musical friends to augment the recording. Upcoming singer-songwriter Lizzy Ross lent her vocals, as did The Old Ceremony's Mark Simonsen, along with the brilliant duo Birds and Arrows. Bill Newton added harmonica and soprano sax. Joe Newberry played a mean clawhammer banjo. Josh Starmer contributed a string arrangement. Tom Maxwell and Nick Stevens joined Shain and Ventre for a live take of Rick Danko and Tim Drummond's obscure track Sip the Wine. Shain also added bass, piano, lap steel, and mandolin tracks, as well. Mixed in FJ Ventre's Good Luck Studio in Chapel Hill, NC, the result is a very eclectic album - some tunes you'll recognize, some you won't. There's a lot of nice picking and collaborations, along with the pleasure of discovering new old songs. Sit back in your favorite old chair and enjoy!

And have a great rest of the summer!


Jon in Jenaz, Switzerland, 8/31/13. Photo by Beth Wimmer.

Fall 2013

Some quick news: I've been working all year on a new recording project - an album of all covers chosen by my friend (and producer of the project) Jackson Hall. So far we have done songs by Eliot Smith, Paul Simon, Elton John, Hank Williams, Be Good Tanyas, Cole Porter, Harry Nilsson, and Rick Danko. And I've been helped by a slew of my musical friends so far - Lizzy Ross, Joe Newberry, FJ Ventre, Bill Newton, Nick Stevens, Tom Maxwell, and Josh Starmer, to name a few. This is going to be a really fun collection of tunes when we are done with it. Look for a 2014 release - I will probably run a kickstarter campaign with some fun premiums - including you getting to choose a song for me to cover on the album. More news on that later.

I did a lot of touring this past fall, including my first trip to Europe - which was really successful, with 13 shows in 12 days in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, and Netherlands... We are trying to put another European tour together for next fall, in addition to my regular jaunts through the eastern USA. I am always up for playing house concerts, so if you'd like me to play in your town - perhaps you can make it happen yourself!

As you may have heard - Jon Shain Trio did its last show with Bill Newton in October. Bill has been and still is a great friend, and the kind of musician you can not replace. He says it's "permanent - for now", as he turns his attentions to writing songs for himself to perform and being a grandfather. I wish him the best with his new music. As for us - I'm thinking of adding a new musician (or two?) on different instruments - so look for a new grouping to be unveiled sometime next year. If you have any ideas for me, I am open to hearing them! Peace in 2014.


Jon at Red Light Cafe, Atlanta, 2/15/13. Photo by David Miller.

Summer 2013

It's been a little while since I wrote - hope the summer is going well for you. I have some nice news to share - I'll be doing my first European tour later this summer! Shows in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, and Netherlands - my first time in any of those countries and I'm excited. If you have European friends or family - please let them know and send them out to a show if I am in their area.

Other news: My latest CD, Ordinary Cats, is still getting airplay on a bunch of radio stations....The instrumental "Soldiers Reel" from the new disc was picked up and licensed to be in a commercial for Kyoti Tractors both in the USA and in Canada. I haven't seen it on TV yet, but maybe you will.... In the sideman depatrtment, I've been sitting in on electric bass a little bit with my friends Birds and Arrows - they are a great band and you should check them out (with or without me sitting in)....

I've also been at work on a new recording - a collection of cover songs assigned to me, one tune a month, by my friend and musical collaborator Jackson Hall. The current working title is "Jackson Made Me" . We've been working at his home studio in Saxapahaw, NC and have already covered tunes by Elliot Smith, Paul Simon, Elton John, Hank Williams, and Cole Porter -- and this month it's Rick Danko -- it's a really eclectic project. Guest musicians on the recording (so far) include FJ Ventre on bass, Bill Newton on soprano sax, Lizzy Ross on backing vocal, and Joe Newberry on banjo. Six more tunes to go and we'll have a year in cover tunes!

And I've got some shows here in NC before I leave for overseas. Hope to see you out at a show!


Jon performing at Cats Cradle, Carrboro, NC, 11/24/12

Fall 2012

Got some exciting news to share:

My new CD, Ordinary Cats, will be released on Feb. 8, 2013. We will be celebrating that night with a CD release show at Casbah in downtown Durham, NC, and we'll have several guests joining us to re-create a bunch of the album in the live setting. The album features some of my finest musical friends in the studio - including FJ Ventre, Greg Humphreys, Lizzy Ross, Chris Stamey, Lindsay Rosebrock, Jim Kremidas, and Pete Connolly. I'll be touring a bunch to support the release. Just check the tourdates here, as we will be updating them as new shows get confirmed. Look also for more shows with my buddy Joe Newberry, who recently won Bluegrass Gospel Song of the Year!

The photo here is from my 12th annual Turkey Day Jam Benefit show this past week at Cats Cradle. Joined by Caitlin Cary, Chip Robinson, Katharine Whalen, Lynn Blakey, The Swang Brothers, and Hindugrass, we had a great night of music and fellowship, raising money for Chapel Hill, NC charity Inter-Faith Council for Social Service.



Jon at Machu Picchu, June 2012

Summer 2012

Lots of news since my last update:

Freshly back from an amazing trip to Peru with my family, I have been back in the studio working to finish my next album, to be titled "Ordinary Cats", named after a song you may have heard me play the last year or so. The new recording showcases twelve new original tunes, four of which are co-writes with Jackson Hall. I've been recording with FJ Ventre as co-producer and engineer and we will be having Chris Stamey mix the album.

Other news from this past year: I presented workshops on piedmont blues and arranging for the studio at both the Southeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference and the Northeast Regional Folk Alliance Conferences. Last fall, I did a short tour in Florida playing alongside the great Joe Craven. Jon Shain Trio was invited by The Nicholas School of the Environment to perform for the director John Sayles as part of his LEAF award ceremony at Duke this past spring. We also played a bunch of fun shows promoting The Kress Sessions, including a rare Trio trip into the Northeast.

Upcoming: Look for a release of the new CD before too long. I'll be touring in the northeast in August, southeast dates throughout the fall, a trip to Florida in October... who knows where else?



The Jon Shain Trio at The Rooster's Wife, 2011

Summer 2011

First off - we have a brand new album for you. It's called Jon Shain Trio* The Kress Sessions and it was recorded live this spring at a house concert in my hometown of Durham, NC. We performed completely unamplified and, with the help of Dave Tilley of Bogue Sound Studios and his incredible collection of vintage mics, we got a great recording of a really nice performance. There are some new songs, some old favorites, some traditional blues, and even covers of Buddy Holly and Freddie King, thrown in for good measure. If you enjoy seeing us live, you're gonna love this CD.

Other news from this past spring: I was selected for an official showcase at the Southeast Regional Folk Alliance Conference (or SERFA, for short). FJ and I went down to Montreat, NC and played and were received really nicely by our peers…John Currie and I played for Barbara Kingsolver (and about 600 other people) in Page Auditorium as part of her lifetime achievement award ceremony at Duke this past spring…I also did session guitar work for both Jim Avett and Reed Mahoney and their forthcoming CD projects.

Upcoming: I'll be touring in the northeast in August, southeast dates throughout the fall, a trip to Florida in October, back to the northeast in November, and then back to Florida in December. And I'm already most of the way through the recording of a new studio album with FJ Ventre behind the recording console. Look for it before too long…Makes me a bit tired thinking of it all, but I love to go out and play and see my friends and family spread across this fine land. And you know what—it is a fine land with some damn fine people, no matter what's going on in Washington!

I do want to pay my respects to a recently departed influence and inspiration - songwriter and novelist Bill Morrissey. He'll be missed, but music lives eternal. RIP, Bill.



Jackson Browne sits in with Jon Shain and John Currie

Winter 2010

After a long, warm autumn here in North Carolina, I'm sitting here semi-snowed in and thought it would be a fine time to update the news on my website!

Lots of news since my last update:

A previously un-released instrumental of mine, “Song for Isabella” was included in Rodrigo Dorfman's new documentary film Generation Exile this past fall. It has been shown at the Full Frame festival here in Durham as well as at the Santiago Film Festival in Chile.

I co-wrote a new song with Jackson Hall for inclusion in the latest Hudson Harding Holiday Sampler CD. The tune is called “Winter Waits”. That tune and “Song for Isabella” are both streaming at Reverb Nation

I have been doing a lot of recording for other folks lately, too. I played a lot of guitar on Jim Avett's last album Tribes, which was released earlier this year and we have already been back in the studio recording his next album. FJ Ventre and I backed Greg Humphreys on a tune on his latest album Realign Your Mind. And in addition to doing some commercial work, I also recorded a duet with Danny Gotham for his newly released album Guitarheel.

Highlights of the 2010 included jamming onstage with both Michelle Shocked and Jackson Browne, opening for John Hiatt again, two great tours of the Northeast, and my first trip to play in Wyoming. And definitely some of the most fun I had this past year was sharing the stage with The Grandsons, The Small Ponds, Greg Humphreys, Sally Spring, and Peter Holsapple.

We have already started pre-production work on the next CD. So I plan to be finishing up a lot of new songs in the coming weeks. 2011 is booking up nicely, so I expect to be doing a lot of traveling. I hope to see you out on the road before too long!

PEACE in 2011


photo of Jon playing with Big Boy Henry at The Festival for the Eno

Summer 2009

Here's the latest on the new album: First off - there's a new title: it's going to be called "Times Right Now". We wrapped up the recording in July with a few last-minute sessions, including some keyboard parts done by the great Peter Holsapple (ex-dB's, Continental Drifters, sideman to REM, etc). Renowned producer and former dB's singer Chris Stamey mixed the album at Modern Recording in Chapel Hill and brought his signature genius and brilliant ears to the project. Then it went over to Jeff Carroll at Bluefield Mastering in Raleigh to add the final luster.Now it's just artwork and cover design and then off to the printers. Hope to have it back soon... Look for a newly re-designed sometime later this year - FJ is adding it to his list of creative design projects this fall...Come find my new fanpage on facebook or sign-up through And check out the picture above--it's from the Eno Festival in 1988, playing with Big Boy Henry and the Slewfoot Blues Band... that's me in the corner with white pants and the strat! Ok - more soon

- Thanks, JON

photo of Sohi Drive cover mural

Spring 2009

Here's the latest news: In February, FJ and I made it to the finals of the International Blues Challenge with a performance in the historic Orpheum Theater in Memphis. We were among the last six acts out of the 60 acts entered in the solo/duo category, all of whom had won their regional competitions. Big thanks to the Triangle Blues Society for sending us out there, and kudos to Little Joe from Tulsa for winning the final!... Six of my songs were licensed this spring by Animal Planet for inclusion in a new series about snakes, but it looks like the show will not air until 2010... I was featured in the WUNC-TV program "NC Weekend" during their piece on The Purple Onion in Saluda - a short interview and some of my music was included... We are hoping to wrap up the recording of the new album this month. It will be titled "Love is a Lucky Thing" and there will be eleven new originals and two traditionals. Trying to get the disc out by the end of the summer... As always, there are some interesting shows lined up - some highlights include a theater show with Caitlin Cary and Peter Holsapple on June 12, The Enofest on July 4, a tour into the northeast in August, an American Tobacco show for WUNC backporch music on Sept. 4, and my first appearance in the Bull Durham Blues Festival on Sept. 11.... Come see a show!

Best, JON

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