One of America's most iconic folk singers - and singer of songs, period - Tom Paxton can point with pride to a career that dates back to the folk boom of the late '50s and '60s. On his new album, "Redemption Road," Paxton pays tribute to that seminal era in a song entitled "The Mayor of Macdougal Street," in which he recalls the hallowed days of the Greenwich Village music scene, hanging out in the fabled Gaslight Cafe and watching the legendary Dave Von Ronk hold court. It's one of several songs that conjure up an image of dry-eyed reflection, an apt theme considering the fact that age 77, Paxton is embarking on the final road trip of his career.
That being the case, bittersweet sentiment abounds, whether it's in the reflection of joys and discovery from decades past ("Time to Spare"), a gentle lament ("The Losing Part") or simply the sweet memory of a long-ago love ("Ireland," "Susie Most of All"). As always, Paxton complements those tender narratives with a deft touch, courtesy of long-time producers Cathy Fink and Jim Rooney, as well as a supporting cast that includes special guests John Prine and Janis Ian, as well as a veritable who's who of Nashville's finest. It's little wonder then that on songs such as "Virginia Morning" and "Come On, Holy," Paxton exudes such contentment. While bittersweet ballads play out for prime time, it's the sounds of a satisfied soul that most frequently comes to the fore.
In a sense, the title itself seems piqued with irony. While Paxton's road has been well traveled, the man behind such timeless classics as "Ramblin' Boy" and "The Last Thing On My Mind" hardly needs to search for redemption. That came to him long ago, and his gift lies in his ability to share it with us all.