Start the new year off with a song in your heart and a little night music from ArtPower's "American Routes" series, a new addition to the innovative music, dance and film program's 13th season at UC San Diego.
First up is Jerron "Blind Boy" Paxton (Jan. 12, 2017) a 20-something multi-instrumentalist who has been called "the living embodiment of the true blues" for his ability to get down to the century-old roots of American music. Legally blind since his teens, he's a big man — husky, and over six feet tall — who will soon be even bigger, as one of the featured performers in an upcoming PBS documentary about roots music, "American Epic."
Although Paxton sounds like an old bluesman, he's not from the Deep South; he's from South Central L.A. He first heard the music he loves from his Louisiana-born grandmother, with whom he and his mother lived. Now based in Queens, New York, he headlined the 2016 Brooklyn Folk Festival, performed at Carnegie Hall and spent the rest of last year touring from the U.S. to the U.K, New Zealand and Australia. He'll be singing, telling stories and playing guitar, fiddle, banjo and piano here, and he's sure to bring down the house.
Next up are the New Orleans Swamp Donkeys (Jan. 21, 2017) — six guys who made a huge name for themselves with their N'awlins-style version of the "Game of Thrones" theme. When they get going on banjo, clarinet, saxophone, Sousaphone, trumpet, trombone, and percussion, it's party time. "I doubt we'll have many people sitting still in their seats once they start to play," said ArtPower's associate director, Molly Clark.
Last but not least — and not from American routes, but Eastern European ones — is Estonian fiddler/singer Maarja Nuut (Jan. 26, 2017), who gives traditional folk songs and stories a jolt of 21st-century technology by looping her voice and fiddle tracks so she can be a one-woman band. "There's a huge revival of folk music all along the Baltic," said Jordan Peimer, Executive Director of ArtPower. "Some of the most interesting music is coming from that part of the world now, and Maarja is really unique."
• IF YOU GO: All three concerts begin at 8 p.m. at The Loft in UCSD's Price Center, where you can eat, drink, and be merry while getting up close to performers you might never get a chance to see anywhere else. Tickets from $18 to $30 (reserved seating). (858) 534-8497. artpower.ucsd.edu