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Tom Paxton & John McCutcheon (from Together available on Appleseed Records) (By Lee Zimmerman)
Like the two old pros they are, Tom Paxton and John McCutcheon found a natural affinity with one another when they decided to use their downtime during the pandemic to collaborate and co-compose. Both being seasoned songwriters, it's little surprise to find them delving into classic concepts courtesy of songs that are both original and familiar all at the same time. Naturally, the two rely on a traditional Folk finesse, expressed by a sound that’s alternately rugged, rousing, relevant, and resilient. Opening track “Ukraine Now” is an especially apt example, a stirring and timely anthem that details the hardships and sacrifices that that country's besieged citizenry now deals with as a terrible new reality.
Other songs boast a similar sort of anthemic presence, with "In America", "Complete", and "The Fan" being but three of the more obvious examples. "Do the Work" and "Invisible Man" are spirited as well, both restive and resilient, while plied with a pointedly distinct populist appeal.
Still, like the sensitive souls they are, the pair's music frequently engages through a tender touch. The shared sentiment is effectively expressed through the reflection and reminiscing found in such offerings as “This Campfire” and the evocative love song “Life Before You”. On the other hand, they’re especially astute when it comes to sharing the more tongue-in-cheek, satiric stance of “Everything,” a not-so-subtle send-up of typical troubadour routine.
Paxton and McCutcheon take turns sharing the vocals, while their bare-bone arrangements find consistency with Folk’s traditional template. The emotions are assured and sincere, the product of their two and a half year weekly songwriting sessions on zoom, an arrangement that clearly yielded clear and compelling results.
Ultimately, Together is touching in more ways than one. Given the experience and expertise each man brought to the table, it’s hard to imagine it could have turned out any other way. Granted, old school auteurs rarely register with contemporary credence these days, but given the honesty and engagement these two venerable songsmiths exercise here, it’s hard to imagine that their relevance might be edged out of view anytime soon. (by Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Tom Paxton & John McCutcheon from AMAZON
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