Lydia Jenkin is an entertainment feature writer for the New Zealand Herald.

Paxton ready to serve up southern stew-pot of styles roots 'n' all

Blind Boy Paxton.
Blind Boy Paxton.

Update: The show by Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton at the Tuning Fork on Thursday March 10 has been postponed until Monday March 14.

The singer explained: "On the long flight over here, I seem to have left my voice on the plane. I have spoken to the airline and they say they will have it back to me by Monday. I am sorry for the inconvenience and really don't want to let anyone down. I hope you can all make it on Monday and we will have a great time."


When speaking to 27-year-old Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton, it's hard not to slow your voice down to match his deep, laconic southern drawl. He may have grown up in Los Angeles, and spent years in New York, but his speaking manner betrays his family's deep Louisiana roots, and his own love of music which grew out of the southern states in the early half of the 20th century.

"My grandmother is a sweet little lady from Louisiana who came out to Los Angeles in the 50s, and yeah, she played good music all around the house while I was growing up, and she'd sing along, so I would do the same."

He began playing instruments at the age of 12, and despite losing a fair amount of his sight through his teenage years, Paxton just kept picking up more instruments.

"There was something about the violin that I really enjoyed. It was a little later that I picked up the banjo and harmonica, piano, and started experimenting with different styles. My love of music just kept growing."

He's never felt his blindness has any impact on his musical abilities, neither heightening them nor hampering them.

"It's a little tough on the piano because I don't have a lot of peripheral vision, and the style of piano I like to play, you need to use the whole keyboard, and it gets a little hard to locate things because I can only see a couple of octaves at a time. But that's about it."

Part African American, part Native American, of Cajun descent, and also an Orthodox Jew, Paxton draws from all sorts of cultural influences, but to him, the mash up of blues, folk and traditional songs is simply the best way he has to express himself.

"It's not music of the past to our people, that's our people's music, and we still listen to it, so it was just natural that I fell into it. It's the first thing I heard, like my mothers voice, so of course it feels right to me.

"There's always been a bunch of communal songs, where it doesn't matter who wrote them, but I think even if you do know the composer, songs can belong to the people far more than they belong to one person. I like being part of the process that keeps those songs ... alive."

Often dressed in button up shirts, vests, bowler hats, or even dungarees, Blind Boy Paxton appeals to those with a sense of nostalgia for a time gone by, but that doesn't mean he's nostalgic.

"No no, they had segregation and all sorts of messed up shit back then, so I would not want to be part of that," he says with a big belly laugh.

"I think it's good to appreciate the here and now, and I appreciate how accessible everything is now - there's a whole world of music I would be oblivious to if I'd been born in another place and time, and I wouldn't be able to reach people all over the place in the same way I can now."

Live preview
Who: Blind Boy Paxton
Where and when: Performing at the Tuning Fork in Auckland tonight, Thursday March 10.

- NZ Herald

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