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Comedians & Angels

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Album Review

Tom Paxton was one of the few New York City based singer/songwriters to get a pop hit; the Fireballs waxed his alcoholic anthem "Bottle of Wine" and took it to the Top Ten in 1968. He also contributed his share of folk standards to the canon including "The Last Thing on My Mind," "Ramblin' Boy," and "I Can't Help But Wonder Where I'm Bound." Never comfortable with folk-rock, or rock for that matter, despite the fact that rockers and folkies alike covered his songs, Paxton stayed true to the folk singer ethos, one man and a guitar delivering heartfelt, humorous, and gently political songs like 1978's "Anita OJ," a mild put-down of Anita Bryant's anti-gay activities. Although his profile outside folk circles may be low, Paxton is still a vital artist, as this fine collection shows. The songs here, delivered by Paxton and a band of pickers adept at folk, acoustic pop, and country styles, deal with love, marriage, aging, and mortality. Love songs that deal with long-term relationships are few and far between in pop music. There are more of them in country music, but they're often cloying, cliché ridden, and embarrassing. Paxton avoids all those traps with nine delicious tunes to his wife Midge. "Home to Me (Is Anywhere You Are)" is a mid-tempo country tune with an understated message of fidelity. "I Like the Way You Look" could be a rock & roll hit for someone like Bob Seger, a frisky, humorous, slyly sexy tune with a chooglin' melody and some nice solo work by Tim Crouch on mandolin and Mark Howard on guitar. "What a Friend You Are" is a poignant ode to the friendship of a supportive spouse, while "The First Song Is for You" salutes the art of songwriting and long-term relationships. These love songs will bring a glow to anyone who has ever experienced a long-term love affair or successful marriage. Paxton's playful side is evident on "And If It's Not True" a lilting waltz full of tall tales about hanging out with Ravel, meandering through smoky Barcelona bars, and watching Van Gogh and Cezanne paint their masterpieces. "Jennifer and Kate," dedicated to his daughters, is a meditation on fatherhood, funny as well as achingly beautiful and poignant. The title track pays tribute to his pals Dave Van Ronk, the Clancy Brothers, and other singers and poets who made the Greenwich Village scene so vital. Like the rest of the songs on the album it's a masterwork of unassuming poetry married to a strong, folky melody. Paxton's songwriting here is deep and affecting, touching the heart ever deeper with repeated listening. ~ j. poet, Rovi


Born: 31 October 1937 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Tom Paxton proved to be one of the most durable of the singer/songwriters to emerge from the Greenwich Village folk revival scene of the early '60s. In some ways, he had more in common with the late-'50s generation of folksingers such as Dave Van Ronk (who was 16 months his senior) and even older performers than with the new crop of singer/songwriters with whom he tended to be associated, such as Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs (both of whom were several years his junior). But like Dylan and Ochs, and unlike...
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Comedians & Angels, Tom Paxton
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