MANHATTAN, NY—Jerron “Blind Boy” Paxton’s grandparents moved from Louisiana to California in 1956, and Paxton, born in 1989, grew up loving the old Cajun and country blues his grandmother sang. He started formal music training when I was 12, when his grandmother let him enroll in music school to learn the fiddle. Two years later he learned to play the banjo. Over time, he added piano, harmonica, accordion, ukulele, guitar, and the bones to his musical arsenal. While his schoolmates were listening to hard rock and hip-hop, the young Paxton found he was uninterested in music composed after World War II. As he began losing his sight, he turned increasingly his attention to playing old time country blues, traditional folk, ragtime, Cajun music, hokum, French reels, and Appalachian mountain music. Paxton moved from Los Angeles to upstate New York in 2007 to attend college and soon began playing gigs in Brooklyn; he currently resides in Queens.
At Lucille’s Grill tonight, 26-year-old Paxton took his audience on a musical time trip to the rural back porches of the 1920s and 1930s. Performing solo, he switched from guitar to fiddle and banjo, and also played harmonica and bones. Carrying the torch for traditional acoustic blues, Paxton mastered multiple blues styles and picks, shining particularly while finger-picking his acoustic guitar in the Piedmont tradition, with its ragtime and stride-piano influence. Listeners also could discover textures of Mississippi delta blues, which similarly originated in the 1920s and 1930s. Between songs, Paxton was charming, with a gleaming smile and a humorous twist he gave to captivating stories of American history. Paxton is an important modern-day minstrel that keeps alive an almost lost art form, and tonight’s performance was equal parts entertainment and education.
Visit Blind Boy Paxton at blindboypaxton.com.