The following article on Scott appeared in the August 2000 issue of Banjo NewsLetter magazine. It was written by John Lawless.
Renaissance Man. For years folks have understood this term as referring to someone who is skilled and well-versed in a variety of the arts and sciences. In today's vernacular, one would expect that a less gender-specific term might be employed. Still, we can all admire a person who has achieved a high degree of prominence and mastery in a wide range of interests.
One could well argue that Scott Vestal deserves such an accolade, though his achievements all fall within the realm of the music business. His skill as a banjoist is beyond dispute, even accomplishing that rarest of feats - being accepted and embraced by both traditional and progressive pickers and fans alike. Similarly, his compositions for banjo have been well-received in both camps. He has had - and continues to enjoy - a successful career as a performer and has been involved with many important recordings, both as an artist and a producer. The Pinecastle Bluegrass Annual series has earned him respect within the industry as both a producer and an audio engineer.
Not content to rest on those laurels, Scott has also designed and manufactures his own banjo, The Stealth, which he markets and sells directly. He has recently built and installed a professional recording studio in his home which he calls Digital Underground.
Despite his involvement in so many aspects of the music business, most banjo players will know Scott from his playing, recording and performing. He has spent time with many notable groups over his career, starting with a one year stint with Larry Sparks right out of high school. As a young man of 23, Scott had the unenviable distinction of following Terry Baucom into Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, a band whose sound had largely been defined by Terrys powerhouse banjo style. Scott quickly won over any doubters as to his capability to fill Terrys spot and it was with Doyle that Scott recorded Up On The Blue Ridge, a tune that caught the ear of banjo pickers right away and has become a legitimate jam standard.
After a few years with Doyle Lawson, Scott moved on and started a band called Livewire, which also included future IIIrd Tyme Out mandolinist Wayne Benson. They recorded a single project for Rounder before disbanding in 1990.
After a few years working mostly freelance, he teamed up with ex-Bluegrass Cardinal David Parmley in 1994 to form Continental Divide. Scott appeared on three recordings with David and has recently left to be a part of the John Cowan Band, fronted by the former New Grass Revival bassist and lead singer. You can hear Scott on Johns latest recording, John Cowan, and can see him at all of their live shows playing both acoustic and electric banjo as well as a MIDI banjo of his own devising. It is a Fender Strat body with a modified Stealth neck. Scott has also installed a Roland GR 30 MIDI guitar pickup which allows him to blend the electric pickup sound with Roland synth and sampled sounds.
I use some piano sounds, some strings and even some drums. With the John Cowan Band, I do this thing where each string is assigned to a different drum sound, so I can do a drum solo by picking different rolls on the banjo.
Since the Strat bridge and the Roland pickup are made for six strings, Scott simply leaves that sixth string space vacant, playing with the same gauged DAddario strings he uses on his other banjos - .011, .012, .013, .022, .011 - but with ball ends to fit the guitar bridge.
Equally adept in a variety of styles and at home in a wide range of settings, Scott is as likely to be heard tearing up a Scruggs tune as he is stating a perfect fiddle-style melody on a Celtic tune - or nailing the head to a bebop number in a single string style. His ability to switch from rolls to melodic runs to single string licks without any change in tone or intensity is legendary, and a daunting thing to behold.
What has earned him such admiration on all sides is his insistence on respecting the sound and feel of whichever style he is playing, always looking for ways to complement the overall band sound.
"When I play bluegrass, I don't feel like I need to throw in the kitchen sink. I want to make the banjo fit in with whatever style of music is being played. With John's band we do Sitting On Top Of The World, but with a funk feel. You just couldn't put a Scruggs roll in that and have it fit.
Now that Im using the MIDI banjo so much, I find that I am approaching things differently depending on which voice I'm using. If I'm playing with a piano sound I'll play differently than if I'm using a horn sound. I try to make the parts sound authentic, whichever voice is coming out.
Like so many great players, music called to Scott at an early age. By the time he was 8, Scott had started playing the guitar and was going with his family to bluegrass festivals and fiddlers conventions in Texas and Oklahoma. His grandfather played fiddle and Scott recalls being drawn to the banjo whenever he would see his grandfathers band perform. At the age of 13, he got his first banjo and began to pursue it with a passion. He simply devoured it during his teens, spending much of his waking time learning the music of Earl Scruggs, J.D Crowe, Terry Baucom and Alan Munde.
"I can remember my mom having to literally drag me out of my room in the summer time to get me to eat. When I went to festivals I would stay up 3 and 4 days at a time without sleeping and jam the whole time."
Though he worked hard and put in his hours, Scott says that it came to him fairly easily right from the start. He did not have books or teachers to help him and his practice time was often spent carefully listening to recordings and trying to imitate what he heard. No one had explained the concept of roll patterns to him so his thinking was not locked into any preconceived ways of doing things.
I never thought in terms of rolls. I just tried to find the sounds I was hearing on the records.
Bill Stokes, who runs Showcase (makers of the Showcase 41 picks, capos and straps plus the Hot Spot bridge and the Torti Pick thumbpick), and a notable banjo picker in his own right, recalls Scott from jam sessions in Northeast Texas in the 1980s. Bill says that even as a teenager, Scott's playing had something unique that set it apart.
"Back then, we had a jam session on the square in Garland, TX every Saturday night. There might be 50-75 pickers there and we would have guys like Alan Munde and James McKinney out there jamming. Scott would come with his brother Curt and pick. I guess he was no more than 16 years old and he would always stick to the outskirts of a jam, never really coming forward to make himself heard.
We'd be into a rip-snorter and when it got to the space at the end of a verse, there would come - from nowhere - some celestial fill-in lick from out there somewhere. All heads would whip around for a split second to see where it came from. It was just Scott cranking out some incredible combination of notes that he had, no doubt, practiced the day before. His timing was perfect and, even then, he was playing things that none of us had ever heard."
Bill shared another story about Scott that made the rounds in NE TX courtesy of Doyle Sherrill, a bass player and local bluegrass personality who would often MC shows in that part of the country. Doyle found Scott a summer job one year at the paint factory where he worked. It hadn't been a few days after starting work that Scott took off for lunch one day and didn't come back. When they went out looking for him, they found him sitting in his car in the parking lot, playing the banjo.
Sherrill used to laugh and say that Scott was the only guy he ever had to let go because he wanted to play the banjo more than he wanted to work.
THE STEALTH BANJO
As if his technical mastery of the instrument and his vast stylistic repertoire werent enough to set Scott apart from the crowd, the Stealth banjo he plays is itself a unique and distinctive instrument with a voice and a look all its own. The 5th string attaches to its tuner on the peghead with the other four strings, travelling through a channel in the neck from its starting point at the 5th fret. Using a shorter fret scale on a standard length neck, the bridge is moved towards the center of the head, giving the Stealth a deeper, throatier tone with more pronounced note separation than is expected from a mastertone pot banjo.
As far back as 1986, Scott had the idea of building a banjo like this and even discussed it with an instrument maker near his home at the time in Atlanta. During a earlier trip to England with Quicksilver, Scott had seen English zither banjos made with a short string channeled through the neck, though these were usually six string instruments with much larger headstocks than what Scott chose for the Stealth.
"I think that both the look and the feel of the tunnelled 5th string appealed to me. Not that the 5th string placement on a typical banjo ever gave me problems. I just thought it would be neat to have one with all 5 strings on the peghead. The look was probably the biggest factor in my decision to try to make one like this.
During that visit to England with Doyle Lawson, Scott met British luthier Phil Davidson and they discussed Scotts ideas about banjos. When Livewire made a trip to England in 1990, Phil built a neck for Scott and put it on his main banjo at the time, an early 1960s Gibson RB-250. This first Stealth neck had the 5th string on the peghead but used a standard scale and had a more squared look to the headstock. This banjo is pictured on the cover of Scotts first AcuTab book.
Scott had been using a wider fingerboard since he was in his late teens. Texas banjo builder Jim Yarborough had made necks for Scott with wider boards and Phil Davidson copied the dimensions from a Yarborough neck when he made the first Stealth prototype. Scott says that he was first inspired to try wider fingerboards after learning that Terry Baucom and J.D. Crowe preferred a wider string spacing at the bridge. He tried wider spaced bridges and, finding the greater distance between the strings to his liking, he reasoned that wider spacing on the fingerboard would also be beneficial.
The current production model Stealths have even a slightly wider fingerboard than the first Davidson neck. Scott finds that the combination of the shorter scale (bringing the frets a bit closer together), the compound radius fingerboard and the wider spacing makes for a much more comfortable, easy playing neck. This sentiment has been echoed by the 60 owners of production Stealths, many choosing this banjo in large part for the comfort and playability of the neck.
When Scott returned to performing full time with Continental Divide, he found that his odd-looking instrument was really striking a chord with the banjo playing public. Even from a distance, the stark lines of the Stealth neck are in contrast with most 5 string banjos, a look further accentuated by the lack of fingerboard inlays and the use of guitar-style side tuners on the narrow headstock.
One thing I have really enjoyed about playing a Stealth is that it has allowed me to meet a lot of people who I might not have met otherwise. They come up at shows to ask me, 'What is that thing?!'
Before long, people were asking Scott if he had banjos like his for sale. The notion intrigued him and he made some exploratory calls to several of the prominent banjo companies to see if there was an interest in a Scott Vestal model using this neck design. When it became clear that this avenue was going nowhere, Scott began to consider whether he could make them himself.
"My friend, Mike Hyde, was on me all the time about making these banjos for sale. He was in the furniture business and had a head for marketing. He would tell me every so often that, if I made them, he knew three people that would buy one right away.
Together with another friend, Chris Cioffi, Scott began to research suppliers for the parts he would need and found a luthier who could build the unique necks to his specifications. Dave Perkins built the first three necks and came up with the idea for the shorter scale. Scott says that he was a bit leery at first but after playing one for a while, he quickly embraced the concept as it made some difficult stretches a bit easier to reach. He really liked the chunky tone that resulted from moving the bridge towards the center of the head, a change necessitated by the shorter fret scale on a standard length neck.
Scott uses guitar-style side tuners since he thinks they fit the design of the headstock better than a typical straight-through banjo peg. At one time he even experimented with a type of straight-through tuner made by Steinberger which used large roller thumb screws to make adjustments. He liked the look but they tended to break strings so he switched to the guitar tuners.
With these three necks, he assembled banjos with parts he obtained from many of the same suppliers who were providing them to Gibson, Rich & Taylor, Deering and Stelling. He used a Tennessee 20 tone ring in these first three banjos and included an onboard tuner manufactured by Sabine, called the Stealth tuner. Scott loved the name and felt that it applied to the banjo design equally well with its tapered neck profile and blank fingerboard.
The Stealth banjo was born and offered for sale through AcuTab and Showcase, introduced in print advertising and on the Internet (www.stealthbanjo.com). Unfortunately, Sabine discontinued production of the Stealth tuner as a result of unpredictable reliability issues, but Scott stayed with the name.
After building those first three necks, Dave Perkins went out of business, leaving Scott with orders to fill. Marty Lanham of Nashville Guitars made a few Stealth necks and it was here that Scott hooked up with Robin Smith, who was doing some work for Marty at that time. Robin also had his own instrument building and repair business, Heartland Guitars, and Scott asked him about taking on the Stealth woodworking. He was agreeable and Robin has shaped the necks and done all the staining and spraying on the Stealth banjos since 1998.
With a half dozen or so banjos under their belts, Scott and Robin began to make some subtle refinements in the design of the Stealth. On the earliest necks, the channel the 5th string travelled had a slight bend which tended to make the string catch and stick while tuning. Robin came up with a way to install the channel that kept the string in a straight line. Scott also changed the tone ring, going to the Curtis McPeake ring which he felt had more of the darker tone he was after.
Customers also have had a large influence on the evolution of the Stealth. One of the most popular finish options, which Scott now simply calls black and gold, originated as a custom order from Mike Churchill in Stayton, OR. When Mike was preparing to place an order, he came up with the idea of a Stealth banjo, stained with a translucent black finish, accented by gold plated hardware and a black head.
Scott admits that he was skeptical at the outset, fearing the banjo would appear garish but, as he was putting it together, it struck him as a very attractive look. After putting some pictures of Mikes banjo on the web site, regular orders started coming in for black and gold Stealths. When Scott started having custom bridges made for the Stealth he had some painted solid black to keep the theme intact for the black and golds.
These bridges are a fine example of the careful attention to detail that is a hallmark of all things Vestal. Since the Stealth has a radiused (arched) fingerboard, the bridge must follow the same radius for proper string action. At first he used a stock bridge made for a flat fingerboard with the top ebony strip cut away at the edges to create the proper radius. Scott was concerned that this uneven ratio of maple to ebony was affecting the sound and disturbing the balanced tone he was after from string to string. He found a bridge maker who now radiuses the maple base and then attaches an ebony strip with the top and bottom radius already cut so that all five strings sit atop the same sized ebony strip.
A small detail...? Perhaps. But indicative of the precision with which Scott approaches his music.
Potential customers have also asked about having a banjo built with inlay markers on the neck, a move which Scott has resisted.
"I have thought about putting inlays in the fingerboard but it takes away from the design. I scanned a photo of my neck and tried some inlay designs in my computer but never found anything that didn't detract from the overall look of the banjo. We're working on a custom banjo now for Alan Johnson that will have a Celtic Knot inlay spanning a couple of fret spaces. That is going to look really neat and we may make that a custom option."
Since its humble beginning in 1997, Scott has had a constant waiting list with customers typically receiving their banjos within 4-6 weeks of finalizing an order. Proud Stealth owners now report that, whereas people would at one time approach with that same What is that thing?! question on their lips, they were now coming up to say, Oh... thats one of those Stealth banjos, isnt it?
One such satisfied Stealth owner is Roger Matthews, who plays professionally with Midnight Flight from Missouri.
I love playing the Stealth. I've been searching for this tone for many years. Remember that rippling, popping sound that Earl Scruggs got on the Foggy Mountain Banjo album? I find it easier to duplicate that sound on the Stealth than any other banjo I've ever played. I've played everything with Midnight Flight from a prewar Mastertone to a reissue Granada, and this banjo gives me more of what I want than any of those instruments. I get more unsolicited comments from the audience about the tone of this instrument that I ever had before. Gotta dig that! Folks just constantly speak about the gutsy, bassy tone of the instrument. It's different from all the other banjos they hear, so they say. They tell me it's got a more pleasant, easy to listen to sound. Well, hey, isn't that what it's all about?
The Stealth banjo will surely continue its gradual evolution. Scott expects to offer a solid body electric model as well as a MIDI capable Stealth. He has also been exploring the feasibility of manufacturing a banjo bridge pickup system that would allow a standard acoustic banjo to drive MIDI devices.
ON THE RECORD
Scott has appeared recently on a number of notable recordings, including projects by Aubrey Haynie and Johnny Stats. He also contributed a new banjo tune to the AcuTab All Star release, Knee Deep In Bluegrass (Rebel 1759). This project was designed to offer a showcase for the various artists whose work has been transcribed by AcuTab with an eye towards presenting these artists in different settings than those with which their fans might be familiar.
By Stealth is typical of Scotts style in many ways. Its full of rhythmic twists with several meter changes in each break. The song even switches back and forth from G to C minor, yet each transition seems perfectly natural and appropriate. As a banjo tune, it is not terribly difficult to play as the accompanying tab should demonstrate. Scott had been planning to bring an original piece to the sessions for Knee Deep and reports that this one just popped out one day.
I was setting up a new Stealth and just started playing the basic theme of this song. I don't know how or why this happens, but sometimes I just start playing and something comes out. My first reaction is, 'Surely I've heard that somewhere before,' but many times they turn out to be new. The first part of By Stealth came out just like that.
I had been out in CA with Jeff Autry and, when we got back I told him that I needed to come up with a tune for the AcuTab project. I was going back and forth between using this one or As The Crowe Flies and finally settled on By Stealth. Jeff and I went over the tune several times figuring out how I wanted it to go. We play it now in the John Cowan Band but do it faster with a sort of a rock beat.
As is often the case, Scott arrived at the recording studio to cut the song, taught it to the other musicians and recorded it without having come up with a name. After the tracks were cut the engineer, Brent Truitt, looked up and asked for the name so that he log it on the track sheets. Someone in the room jokingly shouted out, Buy a Stealth! with reference to Scotts marketing of the banjos. Brent wrote down By Stealth as what he had heard. Scott grew to like the name and it stuck.
Perhaps the most prominent vehicle for Scott of late, however, has been the popular series of instrumental recordings he has produced for Pinecastle Records. Starting with Bluegrass 95 and continuing through the most recent, Bluegrass 2000, these projects have featured sparkling performances of mostly traditional bluegrass music from some of the most talented and creative young pickers in the business. Each year, Scott assembles this cast of super-pickers for a new chapter in the saga which has included Jeff Autry, Wayne Benson, Mark Schatz, Rob Ickes, Ron Stewart, Rickie Simpkins, Aubrey Haynie and Randy Kohrs.
This set of important and influential recordings actually got its start in an interesting twist of fate. The master that became Bluegrass 95 was originally cut as a solo guitar project for Clay Jones, who had been playing with The Bluegrass Cardinals. Clay and Scott had been friends for some time and Clay had asked Scott to help him get this album recorded.
"We all got together at Tim Austin's old studio the night before we started recording and ran over everything. Clay and I had gotten together a few times beforehand and worked on some things. I was living in NC at that time, not too far from where Clay was."
After the recording was complete, Clay made a decision to look for work outside of the music world and stopped performing entirely. Pinecastle, who had been prepared to release the Jones CD, simply planned to put the project on the shelf until Scott intervened.
I talked with Tom Riggs at Pinecastle and suggested that we release it in some form with a generic title so that at least the guys on the record could sell it at shows. I just threw out the name, Bluegrass 95 and he liked it. No one expected it to sell so well but, when it did, Pinecastle turned the concept over to me and asked me to do one each year. I talked to Will Gailey at Pinecastle the other day and he said that as long as the CDs keep selling, they want to keep putting them out."
Starting with Bluegrass 96, each release would feature a set of 12 instrumental cuts which leaned heavily towards crisp, straightahead bluegrass treatments of well known tunes, with a few originals thrown in for spice. Over the next four disks, Scott laid down his versions of Earl Scruggs classics like Sally Ann, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Home Sweet Home, Foggy Mountain Special and Pike County Breakdown plus Ralph Stanleys Clinch Mountain Backstep and J.D. Crowes Black Jack. He also picked on a number of popular fiddle tunes like Temperance Reel, Fire On The Mountain, Whiskey Before Breakfast and St. Annes Reel plus banjo standards Jesse James and Ill Fly Away. To the delight of his fans, he even recut Up On The Blue Ridge for Bluegrass 96.
While each of the projects had included some original material, Bluegrass 2000 marked the first attempt to focus on compositions from the featured players. Half of the twelve songs were new, two of which were Scotts: As The Crowe Flies and Surge.
As The Crowe Flies is, as the title suggests, a tribute of sorts to J.D. Crowe, one of Scotts strong early influences. In the kickoff, he plays it straight in a driving bluegrass style. By the time it comes back around to the banjo, however, Scott has a few rhythmic twists up his sleeve, all improvised in the studio.
I had been fooling around with that tune for a long time, maybe since the time when I was playing with Doyle Lawson. When we decided that this CD would include more original tunes, I started thinking about more traditional material and this one came to mind.
Surge is cut from another bolt of cloth altogether, starting with a tricky arpeggiated melodic-style lick high up the neck and followed by a highly syncopated chordal passage utilizing a 4th string drone. Scott then takes off on some extended single-string improvisation before returning to the drone lick and a reprise of the arpeggiated lick - with a fascinating set of rhythmic jumps that initially sounds like a skip in the CD! It is a real tour de force for Scott and a terrific display of his apparently limitless imagination and technical prowess.
We used to do this with Livewire and had originally planned to put it one our first recording. This arrangement sounds a little different, especially with the acoustic bass.
Bluegrass 2000 includes a couple of other banjo gems. Scott plays Tony Rices Swing 51 as a banjo instrumental in a jazzy, understated style and then rips through grassy versions of John Henry and Farewell Blues. On Ole Rowdy, a Wayne Benson mandolin tune, Scott plays a Stealth banjo tuned down to F which gives the song a great old timey feel.
Though plans for the next installment are still loose, Scott says that he hopes that Bluegrass 2001 will be an all original project.
Scotts first solo recording, In Pursuit Of Happiness, came out in 1993 - a self-produced effort initially available only on cassette tape (now on CD). Despite the many projects he has been a part of, his recent Pinecastle release, Millenia (PRC 1096) is the first under his name since that time.
Millenia is an ambitious project, stretching far beyond the boundaries of bluegrass music. After having produced and played on all six of the Pinecastle Bluegrass Series CDs, Scott was ready to explore some of the other musical forms that capture his attention. On Millenia he plays acoustic banjo, a solid body electric banjo and his MIDI synth banjo.
Scott started working on the Millenia project in late 1998 while he was still performing with David Parmley in Continental Divide. Even before he set up his Digital Underground studio, Scott would record songs and song ideas as they would come to him on a portable mini-disk recorder.
"I knew that I wanted to do a new solo project but I bet I was three quarters of the way finished before I even started discussing it with Pinecastle. Probably the first one I did was "Hey, Mister Banjo." I put down the banjo part and then recorded a bass part using the synth banjo."
In fact, Scott played many of the bass parts on the CD this way. John Cowan played bass on three songs and Mark Schatz on one, but the rest of the bass tracks were cut using Scott's MIDI banjo rig. He would simply play the banjo as he would normally (with picks!) and the sampler would generate the bass sounds.
The material is an interesting mix featuring 9 of Scotts own tunes with some covers of songs that appeal to him. The CD opens with his Hey, Mr. banjo, a lively funk romp and is followed by an accurate and respectful recut of Long Distance Runaround, from the 70s British rock group, Yes.
I've been a big Yes fan for years and I thought it would be neat to do this tune and get John Cowan to sing it. I played banjo, synth banjo, electric banjo and keyboard on the tune. John played bass and sang and Pasi Leppikangas played drums. It was just the three of us on the track which is essentially the same arrangement as Yes. I feel like it came out really well.
A couple of other surprises are in store in the form of Au Privave - a faithful bebop treatment of the Charlie Parker tune - and Mozarts Turkish March.
I originally learned the melody for Turkish March from a mandolin player, Dave Peters, when we were in Japan for six months playing. I did a lot of different parts on the banjo trying to recreate an orchestral effect. Some parts had an acoustic banjo sound. I also used a nylon guitar sound and a string sound with the synth banjo and Kati Penn played several parts on the violin.
Black Storm Clouds is a song written by Scott and Wayne Benson which has been receiving some radio attention on college, alternative and Americana stations.
I had Wayne over doing some mandolin parts and he mentioned that he had a gospel tune we could use if I wanted to do something with it. IIIrd Tyme Out wasn't going to use it and I had another tune that I had been working on that needed another part. We sort of put them together and it turned out great.
On Angel And Chi Chi, Scott plays his original Bow Tie 250/Stealth with nylon strings - a La Bella banjo set which fit without any modifications to the bridge or nut.
I was changing strings on the bus one day and came up with this really odd tuning: C#, B, G#, E, E. I ended up writing one in that tuning and named it after my two little dogs. The bass and percussion sounds were done on the synth banjo.
A lot of Scotts time these days - when he is not on the road - is spent at Digital Underground, his multitrack recording studio built into the basement of his home. When Scott first purchased this house, he spent several months installing 7 isolation booths and a control room, and running the spools of cable to hook everything up. He finished just in time for the scheduled start of Bluegrass 2000, the first project to be cut in this studio.
Scott not only engineered and produced the sessions, but played banjo on every track. "I sat right there by the recorder, turned it on, played and engineered all at the same time."
The heart of the studio is a Roland hard drive system which records digitally to ejectable computer storage devices. Scott mixed his Millenia project here as well and has been recording a variety of mostly acoustic projects including a good number of singer/songwriter demos.
Despite these many demands on his time, Scott says that he still finds plenty of time with his banjo. He averages about 2-3 hours each day, broken up among band practices, recording, actual stage performances plus the time he puts in setting up each Stealth banjo before it is shipped to its new owner.
I don't have a particular practice routine that I follow. I generally pick the banjo up and play what occurs to me. These days, I'm usually more trying to learn something new to record or perform, so I'm working out new things more often. I will go back and run over fiddle tunes from time to time. Those take so long to learn and I hate to lose that. If I'm listening to a CD, I may grab the banjo and figure a line that I heard somebody do.
Jeff Autry and I sit around and pick a lot when we are out on the road with the Cowan Band. If we are stuck in motels for a few days we'll play a lot, and that is about all the bluegrass picking I get to do these days. I love playing bluegrass music - it's the sound I grew up with.
After 25 years, the instrument and the music still command his interest and attention. Now it is music business commitments that drag him away instead of a doting parent.
Fans of Scotts playing can study his style in two volumes of transcriptions published by AcuTab. The first volume features a number of tunes from his In Pursuit Of happiness project and the first recording he did with Continental Divide. Volume 2 has all the banjo breaks from Bluegrass 95, 96 and 97.
"People come up all the time and talk to me about the books. I think it really helps people who want to learn your songs, plus I think it helped me as an artist to have these books out there for sale."
A quiet and unassuming man just shy of 40 years of age, there is little in his appearance or demeanor to suggest the musical dynamo within. Scott comes across as someone who, though confident in his abilities, remains unimpressed with himself and his accomplishments.
With so much natural ability and such widespread success and acceptance in the industry, it is natural to wonder if he is cognizant of his good fortune and the rarity of his talents. This came up poignantly at the first AcuTab Banjo Seminar in Roanoke, VA in November of 1998. A student asked Scott during a question/answer session if he recognized what a great gift it was to be able to play so well and have music for his career.
He paused for a moment before answering, and in his typically understated way replied softly, I thank God every day that I'm able to do this.