John McCutcheon & Tom Paxton – Together
Tom Paxton’s been around lately. He recently recorded with C. Daniel Boling on his New Old Friends LP (Tom co-wrote songs). Now he’s moving onto the wonderful John McCutcheon (vocals/guitars/Silvertone guitar/hammer dulcimer/banjo). They’re performing on their first joint recording: the 14-cut, 50-minute Together (Drops Oct 13-Independent).
Produced by Bob Dawson & John McCutcheon, the music is steeped in an authentic folk idiom. The opening tune “Ukrainian Now,” may be met with both affection & disdain since it’s not clear what’s going on as it becomes increasingly controversial.
However, I’m sure this song is aimed solidly at the innocents, they matter – the mothers, fathers, children, laborers, retirees, teachers & citizens who just want to live their lives as we all do. Few artists tackle this subject, but Tom Paxton is from the old guard & he’ll say something. Good respectable supporting effort. Excellent singing by John & Tom. No hard sell. Слава Україні!
“This Campfire,” features Charlie McCoy’s harmonica with a wonderful mandolin (Stuart Duncan) & this song too is in the folk tradition with a cowboy edge. It would’ve been nice if there was a Mary Travers-type female voice snuggled in somewhere. These are not the kind of folk songs that will remind you of Bob Dylan or Joan Baez, but they will have reminiscences of The Kingston Trio, New Christy Minstrels, Chad Mitchell Trio, Bob Gibson & a pinch of Gene Autry. It’s an old place in folk tradition which always has value.
Adding some jazzy overtones, the duo performs “Do the Work,” which has a tight little groove, old-fashioned, yes. Cool? Absolutely. Now, “Same Old Crap,” has some colorful language but comes from the voices of 2 mature men’s stinging charm. The duo had no ideas, so they just wrote about that.
Some folk songs purposely or not so purposely come out sounding patriotic – “In America,” is quite good. A heartwarming narrative that began at a songwriting camp & completed with John & Tom. Nice to know some folk artists don’t rely on activism or anything radical to gain attention. McCutcheon & Paxton have turned out a warm endearing set.
Tom Paxton sings an acapella solo with the touching tale of “Letters from Joe.” With “Christmas In the Desert,” the duo rubs the Harry Chapin magic lamp. Good tale.
I guess the pandemic produced some good, slow results. This pairing of Tom & John is one.
Highlights – “Ukrainian Now,” “This Campfire,” “Do the Work,” “Same Old Crap,” “In America,” “Letters from Joe,” “The Fan,” “Life Before You” & “Christmas In the Desert.”
Musicians – Tom Paxton (vocals/harmony), Jon Carroll (harmony vocal/piano/organ/accordion), JT Brown (harmony vocals/bass), Steve Fidyk (drums), Pete Kennedy & Jim Roberts (electric guitars), Stuart Duncan (fiddle/mandolin) & Charlie McCoy (harmonica).
Color image courtesy of Michael G. Stewart. CD @ https://www.folkmusic.com/