NEHI Faculty


Annie Raines

Annie Raines, born in 1969, Annie grew up in the suburb of Newton, Massachusetts. She picked up the blues harp at 17 and made her stage debut at the 1369 Jazz Club in Cambridge a few months before her high school graduation. 

Enthralled by the recordings of Muddy Waters, Little Walter Jacobs, Big Walter Horton and Sonny Boy Williamson, Annie became a fixture at Boston area blues jams. She played the New England club circuit with local bands Shirley Lewis and Some Blues by Butch, and traveled to Chicago where she met and played with many of her musical idols including Pinetop Perkins, Louis Myers, and James Cotton. She also enjoyed yearlong stints with the Tarbox Ramblers and the Susan Tedeschi Band, going on to perform on Susan’s first three albums. In 1992 Annie partnered up with Paul Rishell and the two have been a touring and recording team ever since, recording 6 CDs together and playing at festivals, in clubs, and on radio and TV shows including A Prairie Home Companion and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. 

Annie is a Hohner harmonica endorsee. Her instructional video for harmonica, Blues Harmonica Blueprint is available from Truefire.


Ronnie Shellist

Ronnie Shellist has been honing his harmonica skills for the past 22 years.  His musical career began in 1997 working with singer/songwriter Hugh Fadal from Austin,TX.  Blues great Gary Primich was a huge influence on his music as well as Guy Forsyth and Walter T. Higgs who lived and played in Austin in the mid 90’s. His style is a combination of mostly Chicago and West Coast blues influenced by funk and jazz greats such as Grant Green and Maceo Parker.

Ronnie’s live performances include opening for such greats as BB King, Charlie Musselwhite, Robert Cray and the Neville Brothers.  His  first official CD  was recorded in 2007, titled Chicago Sessions. His newest CD “Till Then” was released in March 2012, and features both original songs, and a few classics. It has rave reviews from harmonica greats Kim Wilson and Charlie Musselwhite.

Ronnie is a  Hohner Music artist, endorser, and clinician. He has traveled the U.S. from coast to coast with the Hohner Roadshow. These shows are a mix of performance, teaching, and product demonstration. Ronnie also offers online blues harmonica webinars where he features top players and teachers from around the world.These events are called the Global Blues Harmonica Summits. You can learn more at


Paul Rishell

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1950, Paul Rishell was captivated by Country Blues at the age of thirteen by a recording of Son House singing “County Farm Blues,” and began a lifelong study of the music and its progenitors. He moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts in the early 1970’s and began to perform with and learn from blues greats such as Son House, Johnny Shines, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, and Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. He soon became a well-known blues artist in his own right headlining Boston-area clubs and opening for his musical heroes. For the past 26 years, he has been the touring and recording partner of Annie Raines. He has recorded several solo CDs and several CDs with Raines, including the W.C. Handy award-winning Moving to the Country.


Rishell’s original music has been used in plays, films, and countless television shows including Friends, Oprah, and A&E’s Biography. In 2008 he recorded “Dirt Road Blues,” an instructional video of country blues songs for Truefire. He is a Visiting Artist at Berklee College of Music.


Erin Harpe

Erin grew up learning the blues from an early age from her dad Neil Harpe, as well as from watching local Piedmont blues luminaries such as John Cephas & Phil Wiggins, John Jackson, Eleanor Ellis, Warner Williams, and others – at the famed Archie’s Barbershop in Washington, DC. She has taught workshops in the US and Europe (including the Augusta Heritage Center’s Blues & Swing Week), and has released an instructional DVD through Stefan Grossman’s Guitar Workshop entitled “Women of the Country Blues”. 

Erin also performs with her electric band Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers (recently nominated for “Band Of The Year” and “Blues Artist Of The Year” by the 2019 New England Music Awards!), as well as her acoustic groups Erin Harpe & the Messers as well as her country blues duo with husband Jim Countryman on ukelele bass. She’s been performing since a young age, and with over 2500 shows under her belt, she has been called “one of the most dynamic, talented and exciting roots rocking blues women on the scene” by Living Blues Magazine. Erin’s soulful vocal style and accomplished finger-picking guitar playing has earned her many fans, including guitar greats Ronnie Earl and Billy Gibbons. 


Jim Countryman

Jim is an experienced bass player, specializing country blues style bass, as well as many other styles including rock, funk, punk and reggae. He provides the low end for Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers and Lovewhip on his Fender P Bass, as well as playing the ukelele bass for Erin’s acoustic blues acts.

Besides playing bass, Jim runs independent record label and management company Juicy Juju Music & Management (est. 2000) with Erin. Jim handles management, booking, publishing, and recording for their various musical projects – including Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers, Lovewhip (a genre-bending world music dance band), as well as Erin’s acoustic blues side, which includes teaching lessons & workshops in finger-style Piedmont and Delta blues guitar. Over the past 19 years Juicy Juju Music & Management has navigated the bands’ careers through 10 full length album releases as well as music videos and other content, all while simultaneously playing over 2500 shows.


Shane Sager

Born and Raised in Boston, MA Shane began playing the harmonica at age 14. Profoundly infuenced in his early years by such harmonica greats as William Clarke, Paul Delay, and George Harmonica Smith as well as horn players Branford Marsalis and Fred Wesley, he began to explore both the chromatic and diatonic harmonicas from a young age. Although his first love will always be blues music he used the endless possibilities of the chromatic harmonica to stretch himself into a variety of musical styles.

In November 2015 Shane was invited by Sting to perform at a charity event held in Boston for the Lenny Zakim Fund and since then they have played together many times over the last several years including performances at Carnegie Hall and Times Square on New Years Eve. In April 2019 Shane was invited to tour with Sting on his “My Songs” Tour of Europe and North America as a featured soloist. At 25 years old, he was the youngest member of Sting’s band. Shane is newly an Endorser of Hohner Harmonicas.


Jason Novak

Born in Iowa in 1969, Jason Novak first started playing the harmonica while he was studying at the Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C. in 1994. A fellow actor recommended a Hohner Blues Harp and Jason has had one in his pocket ever since. His first harp teacher was Larry Wise, who turned him on to the music of Cephas and Wiggins, Charlie Sayles, Sonny Boy Willimaosn (1 and 2), Charlie Musselwhite, and Junior Wells. In 1996 Jason moved to New York to further his acting career and in 1999 was hired to perform in the Off-Broadway hit show De La Guarda / Fuerza Bruta, soaring aloft on guy wires. The production had a long run in Manhattan and many overseas tours. During 2-month stint in Taipei, Jason left the show to tour with a Taiwanese blues band. Back in the States, Jason performs Shakespeare at Theater in the Open in Newburyport and is a member of Erin Harpe and the Delta Swingers. He is a Hohner harmonica clinician and along with John Shirley has taught free weekly harmonica classes at Faneuil Hall in Boston for the past 2 years.


John Shirley

John Shirley is a composer, technologist, software designer, audio engineer, record producer, author and multi-instrumentalist specializing in harmonica. He is a Professor of Music at the University of Massachusetts Lowell teaching in both the Sound Recording Technology and Composition for New Media programs and holds a doctorate in music composition from the University of Chicago. John is widely published, having written 74 articles and a book on recording, and has three CDs of original multi-genre music. His YouTube channel provides updates to his original compositions, as well as musical and technological experiments and tutorials (mostly involving the harmonica). 

John began playing harmonica in 2012 after receiving a 3-pack for Christmas. As luck would have it he met his first pro harmonica player at a house concert a couple months later; Howard Levy. Howard’s playing and passion for a wide variety of music inspired John and Howard not only encouraged him to combine his previous interests in writing electronic and experimental music with his newfound love for the harmonica, but requested John compose a piece for live processed harmonica. Howard performed the world premiere this piece, “8-Bit Attitude,” in 2013. In an attempt to accelerate his growth as a harmonica player himself, John began attending as many multi-day harmonica workshops as he could and sought out private instruction from the likes of Jason Ricci, Dennis Gruenling and Ronnie Shellist. In 2015 John released Not So Blue, a 5-song EP of original music featuring various harmonicas (diatonic, chromatic, XB40 and bass) across multiple genres (metal, world, rock, jazz).

John is an ongoing contributor to where he posts about recording and technology and offers his original freeware app, The Blue Dadi, as an aid in recording and submitting materials to the site (though it can be used by anyone who wants a simple recording app that gets decent amplified harmonica tone without the expensive gear). In the summer you can also find him busking at Faneuil Hall, where, with Jason Novak, he also teaches outdoor harmonica lessons with the generous sponsorship of the Marketplace and Hohner.