Tom Paxton

REVIEW “All New” by Tom Paxton, Cathy Fink, and Marcy Marxer is a folk music elixir


Tom Paxton, Cathy Fink, and Marcy Marxer — All New

Even if he is not a household name, Tom Paxton is something of a songwriting wizard.his songs have been recorded by Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and many others. He has been so influential that he was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award. When the isolation due to COVID-19 started, he and Cathy Fink had weekly songwriting sessions via Zoom. The result of those meetings is the album All New.

The album contains 28 songs, so you can tell that Paxton and Fink put in some good work in those online sessions. Fink’s partner Marcy Marxer was also an important piece of those songwriting sessions, providing her input and feedback on the songs that came about as a result of those Zoom sessions. Of the new album, Fink said, “One of our focuses was to write a lot of community songs with strong choruses that others can sing together.” It’s pretty safe to say that particular focus was achieved with a hearty degree of success.

The deeper you go into the album, the more you realize that there is a recurring theme of strong female figures. “Me Too” is an uptempo song that pays homage to women of the past who spoke up and made it easier for women of today to use their voices. The Me Too movement is powerfully summarized with the lines “Me too means you’re done having power over me” and “me too means we’re taking our place in this world.” It’s easy to imagine this becoming an anthem for women everywhere.

Other songs tell stories about strong female characters. “Stagecoach Mary” and “Eleanor Dumont” both tell stories about women you wouldn’t want to mess with unless you were prepared to be on the wrong end of a gun barrel. “The Pearl of Arizona” is a bluegrass song featuring a banjo. It tells the story of an outlaw who robs a stagecoach. She was ultimately caught, but in court she refuses when she is asked to plead guilty. She defiantly said to the judge, “I refuse to come before a court of law that I’m accused of breaking, a law that’s passed by men alone and women had no part in making.”

“Me Too” isn’t the only topical song on the album. “When the Big Bad Books Go ‘Boo’” is a song about the practice of banning books. Over a melody that features banjo and mandolin, Paxton sings about how banning books only makes the banned books more desirable like forbidden fruit. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing along with the catchy chorus of this one.

Contentment is another recurring theme on the album. “Since You” reflects how a certain someone changed the narrator’s life. Paxton sings, “I was getting good at getting hard to get along with,” which is a sentiment that probably a lot of us can identify with. The narrator then acknowledges that brighter days are ahead since the subject of the song came along. “Grateful” is another song that emphasizes a sense of contentment. The melody features only acoustic guitar. Over the spare arrangement, Fink sings “I’m grateful for the love that will not die. I’m grateful as the years go slipping by.” You can just feel your heart swell with everything that she says she is grateful for.

In a time when everything seems more difficult and challenging, this album is an elixir for the soul. Paxton, Fink, and Marxer acknowledge that life certainly presents its troubles, but that we can choose to smile and be content through it all. The songs are catchy and easy to sing. On top of that, they provide a ray of hope no matter how bleak things may seem. All New is available everywhere now. Score your copy here:

Cathy Fink – vocals, banjo, guitar
Tom Paxton – vocals, guitar, kazoo
Marcy Marxer – guitar, banjo ukulele, cello banjo, cittern, mandolin, washboard, vocals
Kimber Ludiker – fiddle, mandolin, vocals
Alex Lacquement – bass, harmonica

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