Welcome to Jon Shain’s website!

Here you'll find info on Jon's tour dates, current music releases, studio production, and instruction in guitar and songwriting.


Hailing from Durham, NC, 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. Jon has released nine solo albums to date, along with two albums with duo partner FJ Ventre, a Jon Shain Trio live album, and one album of co-writes with Joe Newberry. Shain’s newest album, Restless Soul Syndrome, recorded at Good Luck Studio this past year, was released April 9, 2024. Shain is also the author of the music books Gettin’ Handy With the Blues – a Tribute to the Legacy of W.C. Handy and Jon Shain’s Fingerstyle Guitar Method, both published by Mel Bay Publications.

Buy the new album or one of Jon’s books (along with all Jon’s past releases) here with PayPal.

2019 International Blues Challenge Winner

Jon took first place in the solo/duo category of the 2019 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, besting over 260 competitors for the win. Watch video of Jon’s winning performance and read the News & Observer’s feature.

Jon won the 2018 Triangle Blues Society‘s Blues Challenge in the solo/duo category, sending him on to the International Challenge.

IBC 2019



I specialize in getting adult students “unstuck” from their plateaus, introducing music theory and new techniques in a very hands-on manner. Some students come to work with me on songwriting, some on fingerstyle blues or flatpicking techniques, some on improvising, etc;  the main thing is that I try to keep their original goals in mind, while still sneaking in a few ideas they might not have envisioned for themselves, yet.

I work with beginners all the way to fairly advanced professional musicians, both in my home studio and online via Zoom. Over thirty years of teaching guitar, I’ve come to realize that no two students learn in exactly the same manner so I try to tailor my lessons to the individual, preferring personalized notebooks to pre-printed handouts and instructional books, unless we are using my own Fingerstyle Book!

Along with Danny Gotham, I’m the co-founder of The Great Guitar Camp and a regular teacher and workshop co-ordinator at PicknBow Camp, both located in Durham, NC. I’ve also taught at the following adult music camps: Steve Kaufman’s Acoustic Kamp, Acoustic Alaska Guitar Camp, California Coast Music Camp, Colorado Roots Music Camp, and Millwood Blues Week.

“Jon Shain is that rare musician who can walk the walk and talk the talk.  A brilliant player, he is also an accomplished teacher who can unlock a student’s Rosetta Stone and give them the tools to be the musician they want to be.  Whether it is blues guitar, songwriting, or music from the great American songbag, Jon is a singular voice.”

Joe Newberry, Raleigh, NC

“I met Jon at a music conference in 2014 and it changed my guitar-playing life! Jon is an encouraging, patient, energetic teacher who takes the fear and fuss out of learning everything from music theory and the fretboard to picking patterns and arrangement ideas. All of our lessons have been on Skype, which works very well. Jon has truly helped me take my music efforts — from songwriting to performance — to the next level.”

Sharon Goldman

“To begin, Jon Shain took me from a flailing, self-taught freak that only played in her room, with the door closed, to someone who thinks she can play just fine in public….I found Jon encompasses the right blend of instructor, comedian, and therapist, plus he’s very resourceful; there’s a reason, in short, why I call him “Coach.” Jon meets students halfway. Related issues of guitar playing-not injuring yourself, understanding how mics and amps work, why some chords jibe together and some don’t-were a major part of our lessons. If you’re serious about becoming a better guitar player, I wholeheartedly recommend Jon as your teacher.”
Penne Sandbeck, Alexandria, VA

Video lessons


Jon in studio taking notes. Photo: FJ Ventre.

One of my favorite things to do is work with people bringing their musical dreams to life. It’s a great honor to be included in that process, as almost a musical midwife!  The way I see it, my job is to get the artist from starting point to finished project, whether they already know the exact way there or not. Navigator, interpreter, and planner, I try to bring their vision into being with as much or as little of my own stamp as they wish. I am willing to play on the project – acoustic, electric, slide, mandolin, etc., and also hire the best musicians in the area.

Most projects go like this:

  • Pre-production: Choosing the material; working on each song’s arrangement, lyrics, and music; discussing the workflow plan; and booking studio times and supporting musicians.
  • Recording: Being a guiding voice and sounding board in the studio; sometimes contributing guitar, etc. when needed; acting as a second engineer when needed; weighing in on mixes and masters.

I partner most often with FJ Ventre, engineer and owner of Good Luck Studio in Chapel Hill. We also have access to larger spaces and I am willing to travel to work where the artist may be.

A black and white photo of the good life studio logo.

“Thank you both so much for doing such great work. It was a joy to work with you, and I love having an album that I am not only going to be proud of, but also holds such positive memories.”Karyn Oliver, singer-songwriter, Greensboro, NC

“Jon Shain is much more than a producer. He acted as composer/arranger, coach, guitar teacher, guitar wizard, orchestrator, conductor, marshaller of fine musicians, all supporting a vision of a sound for my album that he had.  Jon and FJ work  in the studio as a team – like two guys who have been singing together since high school, FJ taking care of  the technical details, Jon constantly making sure I was comfortable, and listening carefully to make sure he was getting the sound he needed, all with a gentle, positive attitude.  He carefully chose and prepped the other musicians, who gave my songs new depth and color.” Rick Drost, singer-songwriter, Cambridge, MA

“Jon Shain is an absolute pleasure to work with in the studio. His intuition for songwriting and arrangements is unparalleled, consistently providing productive input and insight into the music composition, arrangement, and recording process. He is undoubtedly one of the most innovative producers with whom I’ve worked, and I would highly recommend him to any singer-songwriter seeking a sharp and mindful contributor for their next project.” — Kaitlin Grady, cellist, Durham, NC


Restless Soul Syndrome

(April 9, 2024 release)

Jon’s brand new CD is now available! Produced along with FJ Ventre at Good Luck Studio in Chapel Hill, the new album features Bill Newton on harmonica as well, and covers a wide gamut from fingerstyle folk to Americana to latin-tinged blues.

“I’ve listened to Restless Soul Syndrome a few times now and I am here to report that … it is excellent! Every bit of it. The songs, the arrangements, the production, the accompanying musicians. Every thing. I knew it was going to be good. But … wow.”

— Bill Coyle, Hudson Harding Music

Shipping options

Jon Shain’s Fingerstyle Guitar Method

Jon’s fingerstyle instructional book. Comes with many exercises and 11 of Jon’s original songs tabbed out for guitar. Includes a link to sound files online. Published by Mel Bay Publications, June 2023.

Shipping options

Gettin’ Handy with the Blues – Guitar TAB Book

Jon’s fingerstyle guitar arrangements of classic blues and rags from the Father of the Blues, WC Handy. Includes a link to sound files online. Published by Mel Bay Publications, June 2022.

Shipping options

Never Found a Way to Tame the Blues

Shain and Ventre lean harder into the blues on their latest duo release. Features a guest duet vocal by Rissi Palmer, as well as Anne Harris on violin, Doug Hammer on piano, Bob Beach on harmonica, and Dave Mattacks on drums.

Released July 2021

Tomorrow Will Be Yesterday Soon

Featuring the first Jon and FJ co-writes and a slightly more Americana/pop vein. Featuring Doug Hammer on piano, Allyn Love on pedal steel, Ed Butler on drums, and a guest vocal by Barry Gray.

Tomorrow Will Be Yesterday Soon album cover
Released January 2019

Out of Print

Available on Amazon and Apple Music

“FJ Ventre and Jon began playing music together in 1982 when they met in high school. All these years later, the duo found magic here on Tomorrow Will Be Yesterday Soon. There’s an obvious musical kinship, or camaraderie, between the two — like the lead tracks ‘Song for an Old Friend’ and ‘Bandits.’ It’s sometime reminiscent of other pairings like Mark Knopfler and James Taylor, Lyle Lovett and Randy Newman, Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello, or Tom Petty and George Harrison.”

— WLUR, Lexington, VA

Gettin’ Handy with the Blues:
A Tribute to the Legacy of W.C. Handy

Solo acoustic fingerstyle and vocal arrangements of blues and rags from WC Handy and his associated artists.

Gettin' Handy with the Blues album cover
Released January 2018

Gettin’ Handy with the Blues is a masterpiece of acoustic guitar finger-picking. Shain’s picking of a beautiful National Triolian guitar is flawless. His transcription of these often flamboyant original pieces into very traditional pre-war style guitar arrangements is inventive.”

—  Bucky O’Hare, Blues Blast Magazine

Crow the Dawn

Jon Shain and Joe Newberry

Two of North Carolina’s top roots-folk songwriters join forces, weaving together their Piedmont blues, bluegrass, and old-time influences. Their story-telling lyrics are brought to life by fingerstyle guitar, harmonies, fiery picking, and rolling banjo. Featuring FJ Ventre on bass and Ed Butler on drums. Produced by Dave Tilley.

Released January 2016

Read more about Crow the Dawn.


An eclectic album of tunes from Hank Williams and Harry Nilsson to Elliott Smith and Paul Simon, all filtered through Jon Shain’s fingerstyle roots-blues style and supported by some of North Carolina’s finest musicians. Produced by Jackson Hall.

Released July 2014

Out of Print

Available on Amazon and Apple Music

Ordinary Cats

Modern stories of our times, set to deft fingerstyle blues picking with roots-rock overtones. The early 70s laid back feel of CSNY sneaks its way into Shain’s usually bluesier palette on this release. Features guests Lizzie Ross (of Violet Bell) and Greg Humphries, both on vocals. Fans of The Band and John Hiatt will love this one. Produced by Jon Shain and FJ Ventre.

Released January 2013

Out of Print

Available from Amazon and Apple Music

“Like Shain’s previous work, Ordinary Cats is a wide-ranging collection of songs masterfully rendered in several styles from folk to rock and pop to blues. His original with a traditional twist is a brilliant representation of “Folk Plus” envisioned by Doc Watson. It’s an excellent sample of the talent and technical offerings that makes North Carolina a base for many artists. Among those artists, Jon Shain continues to hold top positions as songwriter, guitarist, and independent producer.”

— Angie Santiago, No Depression


The Kress Sessions

Jon Shain Trio

This intimate live performance by the Jon Shain Trio was recorded in a loft at the historic Kress Building in downtown Durham, NC in front of 40 people on a rainy spring night in 2011. Recorded and mixed by Dave Tilley.

Released July 2011

Out of Print

Available on Amazon


Times Right Now

Produced by Jon Shain with Jackson Hall and Scottsburg Jonze, and mixed by Chris Stamey in Chapel Hill, NC. Times Right Now features the Jon Shain Trio with special guests — the award-winning roots band The Grandsons from Washington, DC.

Released 2009

“A palpable New Orleans influence jumps right out of these songs about stormy weather and stormy romances, all backed up by deftly fingerpicked acoustic guitar, upright bass, harmonica, dobro, and vintage horn sections.”

— cdbaby.com


Army Jacket Winter

Produced by Jon Shain with Jackson Hall and Scottsburg Jonze in Chapel Hill, NC, Army Jacket Winter features the Jon Shain Trio with a variety of NC’s best musicians. Blues and personal narratives abound.

Released May 2007

“Jon Shain has done it again. His latest album, Army Jacket Winter, is superb. The disc is the latest chapter in this pilgrim’s progress and, yet again, his latest is his best to date….Shain’s songwriting is stellar, as is his guitar work. He really has reached a level of creative excellence that guarantees his songs are consistently literate, intriguing and musically nuanced. The arrangements that underpin the tracks are uncluttered yet rich in sonic ideas that elevate the album well beyond the scope of commonplace singer-songwriter discs.”

— Philip Van Vleck, The Herald-Sun, Durham, NC

Home Before Long

Produced by Dave Mattacks and Tom Dube in Cambridge, MA and featuring the Jon Shain Trio with Dave Mattacks and special guest Duke Levine. Nine Shain originals shine along with a gorgeous new arrangement of the traditional “Pretty Peggy-O.”

Released May 2005

“Shain’s effortless Piedmont blues style has the insistent charm of a pretty girl with a big smile…his bubbling finger-picked blues, folk and bluegrass speaks loudly, and his easy-going vocals reel you in on his just released fourth album, Home Before Long.”

— Chris Parker, Creative Loafing, Charlotte, NC

No Tag, No Tail Light

Produced by Dave Mattacks and Tom Dube, in Boston, MA in the fall of 2002. Features the Jon Shain Trio with Dave Mattacks on drums.

Released June 2003

Out of Print

Available on Amazon and Apple Music

“Jon Shain crosses rich musical terrain in this, his third and finest solo release. Shain takes us on a breezy, open-air train ride through the history of American music, moving seamlessly through folk, swing, ragtime, Piedmont and country blues. His approach is equal parts humorous, love struck and world-weary, all with a homespun flair.”

— Rob Turner, Relix Magazine

Fools and Fine Ladies

Fools and Fine Ladies features Jon with his Trio compadres, dobro player John Currie and bassist FJ Ventre, along with guests Chris Frank of the Red Clay Ramblers, Bill Newton, Taz Halloween, Mark Simonsen, Dave DiGiuseppe, and Rob Van Veld. The tracks were cut live in the studio, March 5-10, 2001 at The Rubber Room in Chapel Hill, NC with Jerry Brown behind the board.

Released 2001

Out of Print

Available on Amazon and Apple Music

Even longtime followers of Shain from his days with Flyin’ Mice and Wake should be knocked out by the ambition of this great album of original tunes…Call it musical maturity, or an intangible intersection of solid tunes and solid musicianship: Fools and Fine Ladies marks a giant step for Jon Shain, from folky tunesmith to artist to be reckoned with.

— David Potorti, The Independent, Durham, NC

Brand New Lifetime

Mixing acoustic blues with alt-country and roots-rock, Jon’s ambitious first solo album covers a lot of musical ground. This recording was done at River’s Edge Studios in Haverhill, MA, Jon’s childhood home town. Drummer Mark Simonsen guests, as do FJ Ventre and John Currie.

Released 2005

“Consisting of acoustic-based originals capped off with a rousing cover of Bob Dylan’s “Meet Me in the Morning,” Brand New Lifetime displays the growth of Shain’s songwriting skills. Songs such as the album opener “New Year’s Eve” and the moving family tribute “Song for Joe” carry forth with a poignancy and emotional depth befitting the honesty of the best blues and folk storytellers.”

— Nick Harris, ESP, Greensboro, NC, Sept. 1999


Jon’s band WAKE (1996-1998) recorded their self-titled debut album in the summer of 1996 at TGS studios in Chapel Hill, NC with Steve Gronback producing and engineering. Other band members included former Flyin’ Mice drummer Mark Simonsen and Kirsten O’ Rourke Simonsen. Guests on the album include Stu Cole (of Squirrel Nut Zippers) and Howard Levy (of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones).

Wake album cover
Released 1996

Out of Print

“[WAKE’s album] contains fourteen original songs that deliver stark, honest country-rock with an alternative edge. Rich harmonies, intricate picking and heart-felt songs abound. The spirit of Gram Parsons (and Emmylou Harris) is evident, especially in the brilliant opener “Weight of Time,” “Buttons of Gold,” and the upbeat “Bricks.” These guys bring forth a sense of freshness and originality within the country rock genre.”

— Mick Skidmore, Relix Magazine

So Long

Flyin’ Mice

This CD was recorded in 1995 by Flyin’ Mice at TGS Studios in Chapel Hill and Duck-Kee Studio in Raleigh, NC. So Long was never officially released, as Flyin’ Mice broke up shortly thereafter. Ten original tunes in the Americana vein.

Flyin' Mice
Recorded 1995

Brighter Day

Flyin’ Mice

Released in 1994 on Dr. Lime Records, Brighter Day was the ambitious sophomore effort by Flyin’ Mice, jointly produced by Charles Jones and the band.

Brighter Day album cover
Released 1994

Out of Print

Brighter Day, the much anticipated follow-up to the acclaimed So Hi Drive, offers an eclectic hour of cryptical ditties, dreamy ballads, polyrhythmic rock jams, and otherwise toe-tapping tunes…nowhere else are you going to find more fun packed into a mere sixty minutes. Brighter Day couldn’t shine any brighter even if you gave them a bottle of window cleaner.”

— Phillip Haworth, ESP Magazine, Greensboro, NC

So Hi Drive

Flyin’ Mice

Released on Dr. Lime Records in 1991, this was the first CD by Flyin’ Mice, and contains tunes Jon still performs today. Produced by Charles Jones in Chapel Hill, NC.

So Hi Drive album cover
Released 1991

Out of Print

“The way I figure it they’re tappin’ the source if you’re tappin’ the feet…[Flyin’ Mice] have a keep on truckin’ style of win-you-over that incorporates vintage bluegrass stylings and back-porch, hooch-fueled folk-blues and never opts for cliches but instead reinvents the genres for a younger, modern audience…A warm musical experience from beginning to end.”

— Fred Mills, CMC Magazine, Charlotte, NC