Review by David Bowling
Pax Records 2015
Tom Paxton is now in his late 70s and over a half-century into his career. One of the early activists in the 1960’s folk revivalist movement; his songs have been recorded by hundreds of artists including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, The Weavers, The Kingston Trio, and Judy Collins. He is about to release his 62nd album titled Redemption Road.
He has always been a gentle songwriter and performer whose words look at life, both external and internal. His lyrics remain clear and incisive and the melodies simple.
He wrote 13 of the 14 tracks and many of them fit the autumn of his life. His wife of 50 plus years recently passed away and he has not committed to more touring after 2015. In many ways, some of the songs feel as though he is closing some of life’s circles.
His music tends to resonate with the common person. “Buffalo Dreams” is an aching ballad about letting the mind drift far away. The plaintive harmonica sound in the background provides a simple but effective foundation for the imagery. “Time To Spare” has a nostalgic feel, especially for someone nearing 80, as it looks back upon a world when any dream is possible.
“Virginia Morning” is a tribute to his adopted state, while “Ireland” is a wonderful love story. “The Mayor Of MacDougal Street” is a tribute to folk compatriot Dave Van Ronk, who passed away in 2002 at the age of 65. “Susie Most Of All” represents the witty and carefree side of Tom Paxton and is a nice counterpoint to the serious and philosophical nature of many of the tracks.
The album concludes with the only non-original tune. “The Parting Glass” is a traditional Celtic prayer and fitting farewell until next time.
Redemption Road is another link in Tom Paxton’s 55 year musical chain. It is an album that makes you think at times and allows your mind to wander every once in awhile. A must for anyone who appreciates classic folk music.