Best Of Friends, Tom Paxton, Anne Hill, Bob Gibson, Appleseed Records, 2004
The following paragraphs are from a review of Tom Paxton’s Greatest Hits CD that I reviewed in this space last year and that is germane to a review of this album- at least to Tom Paxton’s role in it.
“If I were to ask someone, in the year 2008, to name a male folk singer from the 1960’s I would assume that if I were to get an answer to that question that the name would be Bob Dylan. And that would be a good and appropriate choice. One can endlessly dispute whether or not Dylan was (or wanted to be) the voice of the Generation of ’68 but in terms of longevity and productivity he fits the bill as a known quality. However, there were a slew of other male folk singers who tried to find their niche in the folk milieu and who, like Dylan, today continue to produce work and to perform. The artist under review Tom Paxton is one such singer/songwriter.
The following is a question that I have been posing in reviewing the work of a number of male folk singers from the 1960’s and it is certainly an appropriate question to ask of Tom Paxton as well. I do not know if Tom Paxton, like his contemporary Bob Dylan, started out wanting to be the king of the hill among male folk singers but he certainly had some things going for him. A decent acoustic guitar but a very interesting (and strong) voice to fit the lyrics of love, hope, longing and sometimes just sheer whimsy, as in the children’s songs, that he was singing about at the time. I would venture however, given what I know of his politics and the probably influence that his good friend the late folksinger and historian Dave Van Ronk had on him, that the answer above is probably no.”
Well, those points made above apply to him here as well. Except that instead of just posing the question to Tom Paxton it is also a question that one can ask of the late Bob Gibson who, arguably, was as influential as anyone in the early 1960’s folk revival. I will, when I can find some of his material, do a separate review on his work. Added here as well is the very fine voice of Anne Hall whom I was very unfamiliar with prior to listening to this CD. I will also make up for that lack at a later time. For now though, this is a very fine CD based on collective work that this trio did for a short time on the Chicago folk circuit in the mid-1980s. Most of the material was written by Paxton, including works containing his funny political slant, but the real treat is the almost seamless harmony done on the songs.
Outstanding here are “The Death Of Stephen Biko (a black activist murdered while in custody in South Africa in the 1970’s); “And Loving You”; “She Sits On The Table” (a gripping and compelling tale of domestic abuse and the sometimes no way out dead end that women find themselves in with abusive men); and, Tom’s classic “Ramblin’ Boy”. Nice stuff, and you will be seeing more about all of these artists in this space this year.