Tom Paxton (with Ken Whiteley), Brantford Folk Club, Brantford, Ontario, Canada, November 7, 2002
I wasn't sure. Should I go? Or not? After all, he did write one of my favorite songs in the world! Of course, he wrote some pretty ordinary ones too, that were like reading a newspaper more than anything. He's going to be less than 30 miles from my door. OK, I'll go! Boy -- did I make the right decision! Tom Paxton, folksinger, author/composer of "The Last Thing On My Mind" was extraordinary tonight.
Well, technically, it was last night, but I just had to put down these few thoughts, and after the drive home...with "Last Thing" as...the...last thing on my mind...it seemed appropriate.
Tom Paxton took the stage 15 minutes late. The newspaper had printed the time wrong, so out of courtesy to those readers of the paper they decided to delay the start by a quarter hour. After all, if you're going to a show that starts at 8:30...you ought to be there 15 minutes early, right? Tom, and Canadian multi-instrumentalist (we've reviewed several of his albums) Ken Whiteley, ran up the aisle and began to play "Bottle of Wine"; the audience joined in the familiar chorus immediately. Then a few of his "short shelf-life" songs (which he'll be offering as free downloads soon from his Web site). Free because, "that's just what they're worth", but funny and timely! Whiteley fitted in alongside Paxton's finger-picking, adding mandolin, 12-string, or 6-string guitars, and a little touch of harmony whenever it seemed right. And the audience sang along whenever they knew the words, or whenever Tom asked us to!
The show ebbed and flowed, between perky, humorous, upbeat tunes, and more thoughtful, sometimes depressing, but often quite moving songs from his new album (also reviewed here recently). Between songs Paxton talked about the recent U.S. election results. He's not a Republican so you can imagine what he thought. His patter was engaging, and intimate. Intimacy is a feature of the Brantford Folk Club; Donald McGeoch and company make the attendees feel comfortable and welcome, and so many are regulars that it's like a house concert...except with a couple of hundred friends.
Paxton and Whiteley broke the show in half, doing two 45 minute sets; the first featured the new album, the second...the hits. While we were moved to tears once or twice with Paxton's desperate love songs to his ailing wife, or the song about the 10 year old boy losing his father (and I'm afraid I didn't take notes, I was so caught up in the enjoyment of the show); we also celebrated with the musicians in the funny songs, shared outrage in the political tunes, and remembered the good old times when he finally played "The Last Thing on My Mind".
Whiteley was featured for one solo number, a tune he had written after hearing some sacred steel guitar players at a conference, and he too had the crowd in the palm his hand, happily singing along. Ken is a brilliant musician and could easily headline at this venue, but tonight it was Tom Paxton's show.
The musicians returned after a brief but intense ovation to play one encore, and then appeared at the front of the stage to meet, chat and sign CDs and books. I spoke to Whiteley about another of his playing partners, Jackie Washington. Then Paxton and I discussed previous versions of "Last Thing," including versions by Danko, Fjeld & Andersen...and the first version I ever heard, by English rock band The Move. Paxton told me there was a new Web site which featured all the cover versions of his tunes -- and he was looking forward to hearing that one. [Editor's note: This Web site is functional and has lots of information, but we were unable to find the one Paxton mentioned, which contains links to the cover versions of his tunes.]
This is the beauty of the Brantford Folk Club. Marvelous musicians, sensational sound, an intimate family atmosphere, and reasonable prices. Tonight Tom Paxton and his associate captured 200 hearts, and held them for just over an hour and a half, and then released the owners of those hearts into the cool Ontario night humming the songs of a lifetime.
Whew...I'm off to bed now, but what a night it was!