Tom Paxton - Best of Friends

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Tom Paxton
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Appleseed Records

In 1984, two generations of master folksinger-songwriters - Tom Paxton and Bob Gibson - teamed up with relative newcomer Anne Hills, who would soon gain recognition as their peer, to perform for 18 months as Best of Friends. Although both men already had lengthy and successful solo careers in progress, 'by the early '80s, Bob and I wanted to work together more often,' Paxton explains in the CD's liner notes, 'and when our manager suggested adding a woman's voice, we agreed and never thought of anyone but Anne.' The trio toured throughout the US, UK, and Canada and performed several radio concerts, but there was never any thought given to formal recording, which made Best of Friends a missing and much sought after link in the chain of recorded folk history - until now! A live February 1985 concert taped at Holstein's, then one of Chicago's finest folk clubs, and broadcast on the city's WFMT-FM station, recently resurfaced and is now presented by Appleseed as the only available recording of this three-fold super group. 'Best of Friends' presents 14 songs (plus some humorous and insightful spoken introductions) from that historic 1985 broadcast. The senior member of the trio, Gibson was a unique folk-pop stylist credited with popularizing the 12-string guitar and inspiring many of the major country-rock stars of the '60s and '70s such as The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and The Eagles. On 'Best of Friends,' he contributes three original compositions, including the brave, inspirational 'Pilgrim Song,' which addresses the 12-step recovery program for substance abusers from a first-hand perspective. Gibson's strengths as an instrumental and vocal arranger are much in evidence, with his trademark 12-string, banjo and voice deftly underpinning Paxton (vocals, acoustic guitar), whose songs dominate the set, and Anne Hills (vocals, acoustic guitar), whose warm soprano provides the rich, lovely bond linking the three singers. Best of Friends also performs Anne's song, 'While You Sleep.' On this particular evening, the trio was joined by the great songwriter Michael Smith as guest bassist. The material on 'Best of Friends,' and the intimate mood of the performance before a winter-chilled and appreciative audience, is a model of original folk music. Paxton, currently a GRAMMY nominee for last year's Looking for the Moon CD on Appleseed, pays tribute to political martyrs ('The Death of Stephen Biko') and musical heroes ('Did You Hear John Hurt?'), presents a Tom Lehreresque nightmare ('One Million Lawyers'), atmospheric Americana ('Panhandle Wind'), environmental and sociological concerns ('Something's Wrong with the Rain,' 'She Sits on the Table'), romantic balladry ('Home to Me'), good-time anthem 'Bottle of Wine,' and his signature 'Ramblin' Boy.' Gibson opens the CD with Shel Silverstein's plea for lost musical idealism ('Sing for the Song'); his own 'Let the Band Play Dixie' calls for social unity, and it's quote from Abraham Lincoln could be the motto of this CD: 'We are gathered not in anger but in celebration.' 'Best of Friends' is a historic document of a short-lived but classic band of friends, what Rich Warren describes in the liner notes as 'a totally unselfconscious evening of music-making by three exceptionally gifted people in love with the music and the joy of sharing it.' Adds Anne Hills in her own liner notes, 'Turn it up and join in. Hear your own voice in the mix. For me, that's what folk music was all about. . .and still is.' Bios: TOM PAXTON It's hard to believe that it's been more than 40 years and 40 albums since Chicago-born, Oklahoma-raised Tom Paxton arrived in Greenwich Village as one of the ongoing folk revival's first and best original songwriters. The earnest young Army Reservist has become a twinkling-eyed grandfather with an enduring and ever expanding body of work encompassing both humorous and heartfelt topical commentary, understated evocations of love and loss, and a burgeoning catalogue of songs (and books) for children. It's only in the last few years that Paxton has won industry recognition for his work, with a current GRAMMY nomination for his 2003 Appleseed CD, Looking for the Moon, as 'Best Contemporary Folk Recording,' and a 2001 GRAMMY nomination for his most recent children's CD, 'Your Shoes, My Shoes.' In 2002, Tom was honored with the American Society of Composers, Artists and Publishers (ASCAP) Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his career-long cultural contributions. But decades of folk music fans around the world have long appreciated Paxton for such compositions as 'The Last Thing on My Mind,' 'Ramblin' Boy,' 'The Marvelous Toy, 'Goin' to the Zoo,' 'Whose Garden Was This' and 'Bottle of Wine.' Fellow musicians as diverse as Pete Seeger (an early Paxton inspiration), Placido Domingo, and Willie Nelson have recorded Paxton material, and country/folk singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith aptly summarized his impact when she said, 'I think we are all born singing Tom Paxton songs.' ANNE HILLS Anne Hills, the relative 'rookie' in the Best of Friends line-up, was born in India but raised in Michigan, where she first encountered Tom Paxton's music while attending the Interlochen Arts Academy. In 1976, Anne and her then-husband and singing partner Jan Burda moved to Chicago's fertile folk scene with the intention of starting a folklore center and record label. By the end of the '70s, Anne had been taken under Bob Gibson's musical wing, introduced to his Chicago audiences, and found herself overdubbing harmony vocals onto Paxton's Up and Up live album, which Gibson produced. Within the next few years, Anne was recording for her own Hogeye label, helping to produce a Gibson album, and singing with Paxton and Gibson on some of their local dates. When the invitation to join Gibson and Paxton in the Best of Friends trio was extended, Anne put her solo career on hold for the next 18 months and hit the road with her two mentors. Since that time, Anne has showcased her exquisite voice and vivid, moving original material on more than a half dozen solo albums and an almost uncountable number of performing and recording collaborations - with Paxton (on their co-billed 2001 release on Appleseed, 'Under American Skies'), with Best of Friends' occasional bassist and world-class songwriter/performer Michael Smith (as a duo and as half of the 2003 quartet 'story-song' quartet Fourtold, whose CD is also available on Appleseed), with fellow Fourtold member Cindy Mangsen as a duo and, with the addition of Priscilla Herdman, as a trio, and as part of the international Faire Winds troupe with Ireland's Aoife Clancy and Great Britain's Bill Jones. BOB GIBSON Bob Gibson was one of the first superstars of the folk revival of the mid-'50s, inspired to perform after seeing Pete Seeger in concert in 1954. Gibson's clean-cut appearance and accessible presentation paved the way for such commercially viable groups as the Kingston Trio and the Tarriers. His repertoire (initially traditional folk and blues numbers, increasingly augmented by some brilliant original compositions), ringing 12-string guitar, and imaginative instrumental and harmony arrangements as a soloist and in partnership with Hamilton 'Bob' Camp (with whom he recorded the first gold album of the folk boom, 1961's 'Gibson and Camp at The Gate of Horn'), were to leave a major imprint on such young artists as Simon & Garfunkel, Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, Fred Neil, and Phil Ochs (with whom Gibson wrote several songs). In the early '60s, heavyweight folk manager Albert Grossman suggested that Gibson and Camp add a female voice to their duo; when his suggestion was rejected, Grossman adapted the Gibson/Camp template and assembled Peter, Paul and Mary. Gibson took great joy in introducing new talent to his audiences, bringing Joan Baez onstage at the 1959 Newport Folk Festival, presenting then-unknown Judy Collins at his familiar Chicago stamping grounds, the Gate of Horn club, and, years later, adding Anne Hills to his long list of protégés. Although personal problems and folk fans' preferences for somewhat younger and scruffier performers eventually edged Gibson from the limelight, he remained a vital and creative presence in the folk world until his death in 1996.

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Tom Paxton - Best of Friends.

1) Sing for the Song
2) Spoken Introduction (Best of Friends)
3) Did You Hear John Hurt?
4) Home to Me (Is Anywhere You Are)
5) Spoken Introduction (Political Writing)
6) Death of Stephen Biko
7) Spoken Introduction (Bob ; Tom's Collaboration)
8) And Loving You
9) While You Sleep
10) She Sits on the Table
11) Let the Band Play Dixie
12) Pilgrim Song
13) Spoken Introduction (Texas)
14) Panhandle Wind
15) Spoken Introduction (Reagon Ecology)
16) Something's Wrong with the Rain
17) Ramblin' Boy
18) Spoken Introduction (Lawyers)
19) One Million Lawyers
20) Bottle of Wine

Best of Friends
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Keyword Index
Best of Friends | Tom Paxton