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Paramount Blues Festival Celebrates Grafton’s Legacy

Sep. 15, 2010
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Grafton's status as ahub for one of America's greatest musical exports remainsrooted in history. It's that connection to the past, nurtured by people who care aboutmaintaining that legacy, which fuels the Paramount Blues Festival, held this Friday andSaturday, Sept. 17-18, at Lime Kiln Parkat 2020 S. Green Bay Road.

The event, now in its fifth year, is named for the record companyrun as a subsidiary of afurniture company in this Ozaukee County city from 1918 to the mid-’30s. The label's greatestcommercial successcame from its "race" records line, which included some of the earliest recordings of such luminariesas Alberta Hunter and Charley Patton.

Grafton Blues Association President Kris Raymondassures attendees that thegenre's diversity is represented at the Paramount fest more than it is at manyotherblues outings. From the acoustic sounds by which its namesake label made itsreputationtomore contemporary manifestations, Raymond promises, "We offer all types of blues over the weekend, from country blues, Delta blues and gospel to what some call ‘blues rock.’ You will find something you like no matter what you consider to beblues music."

The variety shouldbe an ideal fit for Milwaukee’s wide range of blues lovers, including those who listen to the weekday afternoon and Saturday morning offerings on WMSE-FM and theDJs on African-American talk/blues/gospel AM signal WMCS.

Newbies and aficionadoswill not only be able to experience a wide breadth of blues over the weekend, but they also will get it at a bargain price compared to other events of similar size. Paramount has gone so far as to buck economic trends because of its bang for the bucks.

"Our attendance has always gone up, despite the economy,” Raymond says. This year, two-day passes to the festival are $20 in advance; Friday-only passes are $10.

In addition to getting their fill of music, attendees coming fromacross the country and overseas will get some local flavor. Nationally known acts like folk bluesduoJoe Filisko & Eric Noden,longtime sideman guitarist/singergone soloZac Harmon and colorfully electric and eclectic veteransLil’ Edand The Blues Imperials are rounded out by some Wisconsin players. Milwaukee’sLeroy Airmaster will take the stage withtwo of the city'ssenior bluesmen, Greg Koch and Jim Liban. Among other Milwaukee-area acts taking the stage are October Soul, Maple Road and Robert Allen Jr.& The Zoot Suits.Making the tripfrom Madison are hard-touringAaron Williams and The Hoodoo, hailed recentlyby readers of the city's Isthmusas the state capital's favorite hometown blues band.

At the same time people will be coming from all around to attend and play atGrafton's current contribution to blues culture, theburg will be honoredSaturday for its past. A historical markerto be placed atthe site of Paramount Records' original factory locale will be unveiled at the fest as part of the national Blues Trail project.

Paramount has been gaining international notice as it brings accolades to the state. "We are getting more and more recognition from the blues community,” Raymond says. “The press increases each year.We feel it's our responsibility, given the history, that we include music recorded here on a regular basis.Those that understand the relevance of the history have been with us since thebeginning."


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