Tom Paxton

Live in the UK

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The word in the largest print on the cover of this album is neither the title nor the names of the artists. It is "souvenir," running vertically along the right side. Annotators Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer (who also produced the disc and earned their co-billing by singing background vocals and playing banjo and mandolin on most of the tracks) are at pains to point out that there was no intention to produce an album when Tom Paxton embarked on his 39th British tour in the fall of 2003, even though "each concert was recorded direct to mini-disc, simply as documentation." The point is that "this is not a pre-meditated live concert recording," but it's hard to imagine that a veteran like Paxton would have performed any differently if it were. After all, he's made a lot of albums, including a lot of live albums. And this, in a sense, is just another one. Paxton performs some of his best-known songs -- "I Can't Help But Wonder," "Bottle of Wine," "Whose Garden Was This?," "The Last Thing on My Mind," "Ramblin' Boy" -- along with a few of recent vintage and some of his "short shelf-life" topical numbers, including ones that make fun of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and televangelist Jerry Falwell ("Tinky-Winky"). His engaging stage remarks reflect not only his political views, but also his reflections on the state of his career as he approaches his 66th birthday. He notes on more than one occasion that a song of his is now being considered an old anonymous folk song rather than an original composition, taking an accepting posture by singing some of the lyrics of "Bottle of Wine" in French and repeating a parody of "The Last Thing on My Mind" that he found on the Internet. This is a 21st century Tom Paxton, who announces that his songs are available for download from his Web site, www.tompaxton.com, but in nearly the same breath recalls the days of tube radios. Similarly, his repertoire remains a combination of old favorites (his own originals, whatever the ignorant might insist) and up-to-the-minute comments on current events, and he sings them with his usual assurance, the performances filled out by the accompaniment of Fink and Marxer.

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