Comedians & Angels
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2008, Volume 15, #3
Written by John Metzger
Tue March 11, 2008, 06:30 AM CDT
Considering that heís a graduate of the same folk scene in Greenwich Village that spawned Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk, itís safe to say that Tom Paxton has been making music for so long that he really has nothing left to prove to himself or his fans. His latest effort Comedians & Angels finds him mixing reworked, older cuts with six new compositions in order to form a meditation of sorts upon his life. The album feels as if it wasnít really made with a wider audience in mind, but rather was born simply from a desire to make a love letter to those who have meant the most to him. Consequently, he sounds so relaxed and comfortable performing the material that it is, at times, a little too easy to miss the setís understated charm.
Throughout Comedians & Angels, Paxton forsakes his penchant for making biting, socio-political statements. On opening cut How Beautiful Upon the Mountain, he instead makes his point by turning a Biblical verse into an optimistic, gentle folk hymn that, with its calls for peace, love, and tolerance, builds upon the legacies of Pete Seeger and John Lennon. Mostly, however, Paxton turns inward to relay a series of deeply personal songs that pay tribute to his wife, his family, his friends, and his acquaintances.
Thereís no doubt that Paxtonís voice isnít quite what it once was. However, the music that surrounds him on Comedians & Angels is so warm and inviting that it succeeds in overcoming his deficiencies. Backed by a terrific supporting cast that includes dobro player Al Perkins, mandolinist Tim Crouch, and bass player Dave Pomeroy, Paxton captures an intimate mood that plays like a familial gathering before a wood fire in the midst of winter. Itís light and lovely, and the bluegrass-tinged melodies that feed the lilting cadence of When We Were Good as well as the blues-y propulsion of I Like the Way You Look provide enchanting points of entry to the rest of the endeavor. Although Comedians & Angels isnít the best outing in Paxtonís canon, it nonetheless continues his recent slate of wonderful, late-career recordings for Appleseed, all of which deserve more than a passing glance.
Comedians & Angels is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2008 The Music Box