Tom Paxton shares legendary folk music with NM audience
January 15, 2013
By Steve Klinger
Photo by Kathy Meyer
There aren’t too many folk music icons still performing and still relevant 50 years after the first Newport Folk Festival and the folk music revival of the ‘50s and ‘60s, but Tom Paxton is one of the few, and it was no surprise that he was warmly received by a sellout crowd at the South Broadway Cultural Center in Albuquerque on Sunday evening.
In a show that opened with an interview of Paxton by Art of the Song radio hosts John Dillon and Vivian Nesbitt, the prolific singer-songwriter spoke wisely and humbly of using the gift he discovered in his youth to channel creativity into communication. He demonstrated amply that the gift keeps on giving, even at age 75, as he stood on his feet for nearly two hours to deliver a set list that spanned songs old and new, including enduring ballads like “The Last Thing on my Mind” and “Ramblin’ Boy.”
His voice strong and melodious as ever, Paxton added some nice guitar licks and mostly coordinated well with local guitarist Jimmy Abraham, despite limited rehearsal opportunities. Paxton, who has toured every corner of the world, was booked only recently after locals learned he would be performing in Denver, according to AMP Concerts Executive Director Neal Copperman. It was a serendipitous detour for New Mexicans.
Paxton’s body of work ranges from the personal to the political, including musical commentary on everything from the Holocaust to the civil rights movement to the 9-11 attacks. He has penned children’s songs and whimsical refrains with catchy tunes; some, like “Bottle of Wine,” have been widely translated and become folk classics overseas, where sometimes Paxton’s authorship isn’t even recognized.
With accolades to his own mentors and heroes, including Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, Paxton downplayed his seminal role in transforming American music from the derivative pop that most performers drew upon for material before he and fellow singer-songwriters began generating their own music and lyrics and left behind the clichés of Tin Pan Alley. As Paxton sagely noted, what folk music adds to pop is a “special dimension” that provides a connection between performer and audience.
That connection was evident in songs like “There Goes the Mountain,” about coal strip-mining, and “Whose Garden Was This,” written for the first Earth Day in 1970. Perhaps the most moving song on the program was the penultimate encore about the first responders to the Twin Towers on 9-11, “The Bravest.”
But even those personal and whimsical songs on the program, so clearly written without aspirations of profundity, reflected just as strongly the integrity and authenticity that make Paxton’s music resonate for any listener who appreciates the simple and honest outreach that have always inspired the best in folk music.
Thank you, Tom, for the visit and the wonderful body of work. And as always, thanks to AMP Concerts for tirelessly promoting acoustic, world and roots music in New Mexico. For a complete schedule of upcoming concerts and events, visit www.AMPConcerts.org