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This article was originally published in issue #46
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For Lister’s latest effort (Eyes Wide Open), there’s a solid collection of Blues Rock songs with stellar composition, singing, and guitar playing.
Aynsley Lister has been building a reputation as one of the UK's finest Blues players for over a decade, doing it the hard way, touring and recording endlessly. There's still no better way of honing your talent, as his new album Eyes Wide Open demonstrates. Levi Clay welcomed Aynsley to GI's studio for our interview and some electrifying performances.
Born in 1976, Leicester, England, Aynsley Lister is one of the small handful of players that you can honestly say have kept the great British Blues tradition alive.
It’s easy to forget the impact that British artists had on the development of electric Blues, but it’s impossible to imagine where Blues would be now if it weren’t for the likes of Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and the like. In 2016 it’s easy to say “Blues” and think of Joe Bonamassa, John Mayer, and Derek Trucks, but at the same time forget that the Blues is still alive and well in the UK, and Aynsley Lister has been keeping it there for over 20 years. He’s an astonishing player, who sits side by side with the American legends in the minds of critics and Blues fans alike.
Picking up the guitar at the age of eight, the young Lister was an obsessive Clapton fan, quickly working out how to play his iconic mix of major and minor pentatonic scales. Outside of this though, it would be hard to ignore the importance of the three Kings (Freddie, Albert, and B.B.), along with UK icon, Peter Green.
There was no formal instruction for Aynsley, instead he walked the road of the honest Bluesman, learning everything from records by using his ears. This method is often scoffed at by those with a formal education, but in reality this path often results in a supremely trained ear with an attention to detail for both nuance and tone that you’ll never get from any book or school.
Releasing his first album at 19, Messin’ with the Kid helped Lister maintain a decent following on home turf, and as the crowds began to follow him around, both the Press and record labels would follow.
In 1999, Aynsley released his third album, a self titled effort on Ruf Records. This helped the budding artist reach a whole new market with better distribution channels, and made him a more serious candidate for collaborations, featuring Walter Trout on the CD. The next eight years saw six more releases on Ruf Records, and extensive touring, especially in Europe.
Live is where Aynsley shines, and is best seen in this setting. If you’re unable to catch him live right now, he has two DVDs available, 2004’s “Live!” and 2005’s “Pilgrimage” with the Ruf Records collaborative project, Blues Caravan.
In 2009, Aynsley signed with Manhaton Records, releasing “Equilibrium” to much wider critical acclaim, though he only released two albums there (2010’s “Tower Sessions”), before moving to Straight Talkin’ Records.
In terms of gear, Aynsley is a hard man to copy as he’s using vintage amplifiers, namely a 1979 Marshall 2144, with reverb (though here are some delicious old Fenders in his collection as well as the vintage Marshalls). It would later turn out that it had been modded during a repair at some point, so replicating it exactly is no short order. You’ll get close with a JMP and a reverb pedal, though.
For guitars, again it’s not quite off the rack gear. Mainly he uses Les Paul and Strat replicas built by Damian Probett, of Probett guitars. Having played them myself, I can tell you they play like great vintage Gibsons and Fenders, but good luck getting one, as Damian only offers his own models now, with a design reminiscent of the Ibanez Ghostrider. You’ll get close with a good Strat and Les Paul (in fact, he has a great ’88 Strat and a ’90 Les Paul in the collection that have been played all over).
For Lister’s latest effort (Eyes Wide Open), there’s a solid collection of Blues Rock songs with stellar composition, singing, and guitar playing. From the first single (All Of Your Love) to the album highlight, Il Grande Mafioso, this album is a tour de force of modern Blues with that classic British edge.
Outside of his playing and recording, Aynsley has a selection of instructional offerings for various sites and magazines, but the most exciting way to see this side of his career is to check out his Guitar Weekends events, where for an extremely reasonable fee, people spend a weekend with Aynsley in a hotel playing guitars, learning, jamming with his band, and enjoying good food, drink, and company. I’m yet to find a single person who hasn’t attended one of these and absolutely loved it. It’s an excellent opportunity for anyone serious about developing their playing, composition, or just wanting to spend time with such an inspirational player.
With a UK tour currently happening, and ending in March, there’s never been a better time to catch Aynsley on the road, and witness one of the UK’s premier Blues acts.