Notable Artist Profile: Blind Boy Paxton

The Calgary Folk Fest is always a great weekend in Calgary. Everyone heads to the beautiful Prince’s Island Park to spread out their tarps and take in some great line-ups of blues, jazz, country and alternative music. This year’s line-up was superb.  With acts like Alabama Shakes, Thievery Corporation, Bahamas and Kurt Vile, there was a little something for everyone. The festival was also a great triumph, considering the park was nearly washed away in June and still sold-out on its final day. Before hitting the main stage on Saturday, we caught up with New York-based blues performer Blind Boy Paxton.

Blind Boy is a charmer with all the congeniality of a southern Delta preacher. He greets people with a wide grin, an easy demeanor, and he describes his musical touch as his own brand of ‘Geronimo musk’. 

This is Blind Boy’s first visit to Calgary, and while he thinks the weather is “a doozy, ” he also went on to say that he thought Calgary was a real sweet city and it was just amazing that it could rain here when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. He also said that having the opportunity to play with the likes of Hazmat Modine and Jason Burnstick doesn’t get much better. 

So let’s talk about his musical influences. Paxton grew up with his grandparents listening to the country and Cajun sounds of Louisiana circa 1920 through 1930. This music greatly influenced the blues and ragtime music, which he now plays. He is also a multi-instrumentalist, which is pretty remarkable considering that he lost most of his eyesight when he was a teenager. Blind Boy cites his musical inspirations as the trees, the woods and the sound of people working with a little South Central. He also mentioned that artists like Cleo Gibson and Sippie Wallace are on heavy rotation. According to Blind Boy, Sippie Wallace is the kind of woman that could knock you out with just her voice and that’s the kind of music that really appeals to him. When asked how many instruments he plays, Blind Boy candidly responded, “Four Publicly. I play the guitar, the banjo, the fiddle, the piano and do a bunch a singing and it’s a good time.” 

For someone so young, Blind Boy already has a great deal of myth and mystery associated with his name. For instance, if you look up Blind Boy online, one of the first things you’ll read about him is that he’s a relative of the infamous bluesman Robert Johnson, the man who allegedly sold his soul to the devil for his musical abilities. However, Blind Boy was quick to point out there was no connection. “People like putting in a lot of facts that ain’t facts, but if they say so…

Blind Boy currently lives in Queens (Not Brooklyn, as the internet would have you believe) where he spends the winters making music so he can tour in the spring and summer months. He sees making music as perpetuating a good time. His goal in life is to simply make music that will make people want to shake their hips, wiggle their ears and make babies. Helping to continue the human existence is a burden that Blind Boy is willing to take on. When we asked him if he had any advice for other musicians, his only recommendation was to practice, practice, practice. In his mind, people put trust in performers to show them a good time and that’s a responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly. At 24, Blind Boy is unsure what’s ahead and is really just focusing on the next performance. He isn’t too fussed if he’s playing his next show at the Carnegie Hall or in a rundown juke joint on the side of the highway.

With so much talent and personality, there is no doubt that he’ll be playing the big venues soon enough.

Getting to see acts like Blind Boy Paxton is really a testament to the high calibre of the Calgary Folk Fest. If you missed out on the Folk Fest this summer, be sure to check out some of the Folk Fest special events over the next few months here

As Blind Boy would say, “It will be a hot time!”