Tom Paxton Takes His Boat to the Water

APRIL 26, 2017 | By Terry Roland | No Depression


There’s something that is as clear as creek water about listening to Tom Paxton’s latest release, Boat in the Water. This is the kind of new release fans hope for from our veteran folk-artists. While it’s a continuation of his legacy in song, it carries a sense of renewal, regeneration and continuity that is as engaging as it is beautiful.

In a recent phone conversation, when asked if he had begun to move into the Pete Seeger-Sweetwater era of his life in consideration of the title song of this new release, as in building boats?  He laughed and said, “On no!  You put working tools in my hands and you better run for your life!”  Then, he added, “I saw the picture that became the album cover on a post card in Pat Alger’s office.  So, when we sat down to write songs, I looked at it and said, “Let’s get this boat in the water.”

One of the thematic elements that is striking about Boat in the Wateris its optimism. The songs are the kind you’d want to take with you on a stroll through an Appalachian trail or a Yosemite Valley path.

But, for Paxton, the formation of the album is not-so clear. “I never know going in what kind of a tone an album is going to have. It’s just something that emerges like a mystery.” He said.

The album represents a departure for Paxton, who since 1995, has been produced by Nashville veteran and John Prine producer, Jim Rooney. “I love Jim and always enjoy our work together. This time out we did the album here at home(Virginia). This one is produced by Cathy and Marcy who live near me.”

One of the elements that make Paxton’s album so easy on the ears is the purity of the instrumentation. There is a live-in-the-studio feeling that makes the folk end of the Americana movement engaging and authentic-a production approach that has been mastered by Jim Rooney.  With mandos, acoustic guitars and banjo in place, this album draws us into its good time world. Given the good company he is in, songwriters and instrumentalists, it’s no wonder this album feels so community-minded. It’s the essence of folk music, after all. And the audience is included in the warmth of that community. Singer-songwriters and Paxton friends, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer’s production approach nurtured this feeling beautifully.

The communal sense of this album comes from its collaborative nature. For the new songs Paxton worked with a co-writer. “This is the first time I’ve be able to work with my co-writer, Jon Vezner. He came up from Nashville and we wrote four songs together,” Paxton said.

The album stands in contrast to Paxton’s last release, 2015’s Redemption Road. It was a season of change for the singer-songwriter. In 2014, he lost his wife of over 50 years, Midge. The album held a kind of melancholy. The songs related to the closing of eras of times past. It was a bittersweet album of goodbyes with the closing of the curtain on the past, while Boat in the Water is firmly planted in the present moment.

“Yes,” agreed Paxton, “there was an elegiac feel to Redemption Road. This is a much happier album,” Paxton laughed. Indeed, Boat in the Water is striking in in its bright outlook on life.

The songs are uniformly well-crafted and new along with a carefully selected series of classics from Tom Paxton’s considerable catalogue that reaches back 50 years. “The First Thing I Think of Each Morning,” written by Paxton and Vezner, serves as a follow-up to his classic “Last Thing on my Mind.” A beautiful melodious love song, it is a strong candidate for becoming another folk standard in the near future. “Life” rings with the affirmation of the continuity and gift of life. It is a song of blessing, gratitude and joy.  The lyrics are like Paxton’s own version of his friend, Bob Dylan’s classic, “Forever Young.”

 “Life-may it be long and loving.

Peace-may you enjoy its blessing,

Joy-may it be yours to savor

and Love-may it be yours forever.”

With albums like this from old friends like Tom Paxton, there is a good chance that life and love will be around for a much-need long while.


Read the original article via No Depression HERE.

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