Tom Paxton

Under American Skies

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Tom Paxton reunites with one-time collaborator Anne Hills for this album of largely political folk, which includes such evergreens as "Carry It On," "Birmingham Sunday" (about the racially motivated 1963 church bombing), "God Bless the Grass," and Paxton's own "Clarissa Jones." Also on the program are a few later compositions, most notably Tom Russell's "Manzanar," about the treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and the title cut, a comment on the death penalty that represents the album's only songwriting collaboration by Paxton and Hills. The singing is impeccable and the songs are first-rate, but the performances are mostly so faithful to the originals that they don't add much. In addition, while the social commentary is balanced by an occasional love song, it would have helped to also sprinkle in some of the humor that Paxton employs so well on his solo albums; as is, this is pretty consistently somber stuff. Still, Paxton and Hills deserve plaudits for helping to keep the political folk genre alive; it's too bad that more writers aren't addressing the sorts of issues tackled here.

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