Jon Shain

Photo of Jon Shain.

About Jon Shain

jon shain headshot

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. Shain’s newest disc, a duet album with Joe Newberry, Crow the Dawn, was just released in January, 2016.

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, Shain 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 Shain also got to meet and play with John Dee Holeman and a number of the 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 the real-world blues music is what has most informed his musical direction.

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, released four CDs, and played clubs, schools, and festivals up and down the East Coast, building a legion of fans.

After his band's breakup, Shain went solo, returning to his roots in the folk and blues circuit. In addition to the new 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. In addition to festival slots and headlining club dates, the last few years has seen Shain playing esteemed listening rooms and opening sold out theatre shows for John Hiatt, Keb’ Mo’, Little Feat, and others. When Shain is not recording or performing, he stays busy giving private instruction in Piedmont blues fingerstyle guitar, and teaching group workshops in songwriting and blues guitar.

Musical Partners-in-Crime

Some of Jon's musical buddies who appear frequently on his live dates as well as on his recorded material.

FJ Ventre headshotF.J. Ventre
upright bass, vocals

F.J. Ventre and Jon began playing music together in 1982 when they met in high school. F.J. went on to University of Massachusetts-Lowell, earning a B.A. in Music Performance and Sound Recording. He remained in the Boston area, performing in the city's vibrant music scene. Since relocating to Chapel Hill, NC in 2000, Ventre has performed with his own group The Swang Brothers, as well as The Stars Explode, Rebecca and the Hi-Tones, and Matt Hill. In addition to performing as a sought after sideman, he spends his time behind the mixing board, engineering at his home studio and operating his graphic design firm Tadpole Designs.

John Currie headshot John Currie
dobro, guitar

The talented multi-instrumentalist John Currie has been playing with Jon since 1997 when he joined WAKE as an electric lead player. As one of the Triangle area's hottest and most in demand players, Currie is at home playing everything from Bluegrass to Bebop. His solos often bring hoots and hollers from the crowd.

Joe NewberryJoe Newberry
guitar, banjo

A frequent guest on NPR's Prairie Home Companion, Joe Newberry has long been a luminary in the old-time music scene, playing with the likes of Big Medicine, Bruce Molsky, and original members of The Red Clay Ramblers. Joe has recently been recognized for his songwriting prowess with an IBMA award for song of the year, as recorded by The Gibson Brothers.

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