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On fiddle he is a stylistic chameleon‚ channeling Kenny Baker‚ Johnny Gimble‚ or Stephane Grappelli in turn. As a mandolinist he calls to mind Jethro Burns or Tiny Moore in one instant‚ then Bill Monroe or Sam Bush the next. On guitar he also speaks with many voices; from a snaky Delta blues fingerstyle to Django-fied swing to searing open-tuned slide Stratocaster. And that’s just instrumentally speaking. In his singing and songwriting he shifts from mountain soul bluegrass to smooth urban swing to Haggardesque country and back again.
Paul Kramer is a jack-of-all-trades; forget the "master of none" part. And having forged a successful career as a highly respected sideman to the stars‚ he is now stepping out as an artist in his own right‚ and in several directions at once!
Some might think it strange that one so steeped in Southern roots music should hail from‚ of all places‚ suburban Chicago. And yet in high school‚ after a twang-deficient childhood‚ Paul and a few pals discovered bluegrass on vinyl and never looked back. Paul attended and graduated from the University of Illinois with highest honors‚ including the highest GPA in the Deparment of History‚ all the while nurturing his passion for music.
In 1981‚ Paul joined and toured with an early edition of Special Consensus Bluegrass Band‚ an association that lasted three years. It was at this time that he studied with mandolin wizard Kenneth "Jethro" Burns of Homer and Jethro fame‚ an apprenticeship which would blossom into a lifelong love of jazz. In 1984‚ he scratched his competitive itch‚ winning the prestigious mandolin contests at the Kerrville Bluegrass Festival and the Walnut Valley Festival at Winfield Kansas. Post-Special C‚ Paul took up electric guitar and fiddle and worked the suburban country bar circuit.
Paul made the big move to Nashville in 1988‚ almost immediately scoring a writing gig with Mel Tillis´s publishing company. Then came touring offers and multi-instrumentalist gigs with some of Nashville´s biggest country stars‚ including Lynn Anderson‚ Lionel Cartwright‚ Robert Ellis Orrall‚ Lorrie Morgan‚ Doug Stone‚ George Ducas‚ Pam Tillis‚ Rhett Akins‚ Deana Carter‚ Suzy Bogguss‚ Gary Allan‚ Travis Tritt‚ and most recently‚ Sammy Kershaw. He has appeared on numerous television shows‚ including Leno‚ Letterman‚ Austin City Limits‚ and The View. He backed Faith Hill on guitar in one TV appearance‚ and Martina McBride on fiddle in another. "I´ve lived the musician´s dream" he says‚ "I´ve jammed onstage with my idols: Bill Monroe‚ Merle Haggard‚ Buck Owens‚ Ricky Skaggs‚ Hank Jr.‚ Marty Stuart‚ Charlie Daniels‚ Mark O´Connor‚ and Asleep at the Wheel."
In the studio Paul has contributed to recordings by Lionel Cartwright‚ Sammy Kershaw‚ Gretchen Peters‚ Pam Gadd‚ Chris Jones‚ Buddy Spicher‚ Vassar Clements‚ Jerry Krahn‚ Robert Lovett‚ and John England and the Western Swingers. Recently he has added fiddle and mandolin tracks to several projects with rock legend Leon Russell‚ including a duet project with Willie Nelson.
As a songwriter Paul´s songs have been recorded by Wild Rose‚ Shane Barmby‚ Debra Burns‚ LeeAnn Womack‚ Jeff Chance‚ Mandy Barnett‚ Chris Jones‚ Janet Lynn‚ the Gibson Brothers‚ and Mel Tillis. In 2003‚ Suzy Bogguss recorded three of Paul´s songs for her Ray Benson-produced Swing project‚ including "It´s All About You"‚ "Piccadilly Circus"‚ and "It´s Always New To Me".
In recent years Paul Kramer has begun to hone his identity as an artist‚ although "honing an identity" may be the wrong description for someone with so many musical personalities! 2007 witnessed the unveiling of Swing Street‚ an all-original tour de force inspired by the music of Ellington and Armstrong‚ Reinhardt and Grappelli‚ Count Basie‚ and even Bob Wills. Highlights include a duet with Suzy Bogguss on the acoustic gypsy-groove tune "Animal Attraction"‚ the Bob Wills-on-acid historical satire of "Monkeys With Car Keys"‚ and the Cole Porteresque mini-movie "Piccadilly Circus". Paul did all the lead vocals‚ guitars‚ fiddle‚ and mandolin on the project‚ with able assistance from Charlie Chadwick‚ Danny Coots‚ Jim White‚ Jeff Taylor‚ Dennis Solee‚ and Tommy Hannum.
In 2008 the nation was riveted by an historic election‚ and Paul provided a most timely soundtrack with The Bloggrass Boys‚ an all-star group he assembled for the occasion. "I read Obama´s Audacity of Hope and maybe not-so-coincidentally began writing the songs that would become The Bloggrass Boys CD about the same time. It´s an unusual project in that it pairs bluegrass music‚ which is sometimes pigeonholed as conservative politically‚ with a more progressive outlook." Paul enlisted several powerful voices in support‚ most notably Suzy Bogguss on the stunning "Moonlight On The Tigris"‚ Chris Jones on the climate-themed "Let´s Talk About The Weather"‚ and Jonell Mosser on the haunting "Never Again". The material ranges from wicked satire ("The Emperor Has No Clothes"‚"I Am Not My Brother´s Keeper") to thoughtful pleas for recognition of our common humanity ("One Big Lifeboat"‚ "We Are All One").
Currently Paul is the featured fiddler in the dinner show Country Music USA on the General Jackson riverboat. He can also be seen with the Volunteer String Band every Monday night at Layla´s Bluegrass Inn on Lower Broadway‚and on occasion around the Nashville area with his band Swing Street.
Paul Kramer uses and endorses strings, Fender guitars and amps, and Gibson mandolins.
A few notable quotables:
"Paul Kramer is taking the sensibility of the Golden Age of swing into the 21st century with a fresh approach‚ lively twists‚ brilliant musicianship‚ and strong‚ sensitive songwriting."-- Ranger Doug Green of Riders In The Sky
"The songs (on Swing Street) are deftly written and rendered with charm‚ wry humor and an impressive attention to detail‚ while the band‚ including co-producer Charlie Chadwick on bass‚ simmers and surges just the way it´s supposed to"--Jon Weisberger‚ Nashville Scene Critic´s Pick
"Swing Street is the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band of modern swing music!"--John England
"Swing Street belongs in every swing music lover´s collection; incredible musicianship‚ toe-tapping rhythms‚ spot on vocals and wickedly clever lyrics. I can´t stop listening to this one!"--Carolyn Martin‚ vocalist with the Time Jumpers.
On The Bloggrass Boys:
"I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun working an album
as I did with the Bloggrass Boys during the politcal
season in 2008. Some great Bluegrass pickin’ and
singin’ from some of Nashville’s finest was picked up
by over 30 Americana stations nationally."
Bill Wence Promotions