Album Review: Tom Paxton, ‘Redemption Road’
Sixty-two albums into his career and folk hero Tom Paxton is still creating shining moments. On Redemption Road, Paxton's prolific skills are wrapped up in 14 tracks that venture from the socially conscious to the lighthearted. Regardless of his focus, his songs continue to prove his legendary status as an artist who rose through the ranks with the likes of Bob Dylan, Dave Van Ronk and Phil Ochs.
"Virginia Morning" opens the album and perfectly sets the stage for what's to come: personally reflective and pristine folk music. Throughout the record, Paxton showcases original song after original song, all except the closing track, "The Parting Glass" -- a traditional Irish and Scottish folk tune that was, purportedly, the most popular "farewell" song in Scotland prior to "Auld Lange Syne."
In between "Virginia Morning" and "The Parting Glass," Paxton delivers an impeccable ballad for children ("Skeeters'll Gitcha"), a beautiful ode to the 99-percent ("If the Poor Don't Matter") and an unforgettable tribute to his good friend, Dave Van Ronk ("The Mayor of MacDougal Street").
Paxton finds himself in the studio with longtime producer Jim Rooney, a man he's been working with since the mid-'90s. "I love what he knows about me and my music and the way he brings it out," Paxton recently told us about Rooney. "I love the people he assembles in the studio."
The team he surrounds himself doesn't end with Rooney; Cathy Fink serves as the executive producer of Redemption Road, launching the album's Kickstarter campaign and contributing banjo and vocals to the album. He even invited John Prine to the studio to assist with the aforementioned "Skeeters'll Gitcha."
"If he called me, I’d be there in a heartbeat," he says about Prine. "That’s what friends are for. To sing a verse in a silly song."
The standout track on this record is "Central Square," a timeless piece of music that sounds like it could fit at home just as easily in Greenwich Village in 1960 as it does on Redemption Road in 2015. "The story just told itself," he laughingly recalled. "It’s one of those wrong turns that we’re experts at when we’re young."
At 77 years old, he's no doubt taken a few wrong turns during his career and life. Those experiences and lessons learned have built him into an unadulterated, authentic musician, one who has survived the ebbs and flows of the ever-changing music industry.
We can't wait to see what shining moments he creates on album number 63.