A Review of Paxton/Hills/Gibson CD
"Best Of Friends"

"Best Of Friends"
by Paxton/Hills/Gibson

Copyright: 2004 Appleseed Recordings CD 1077.
Running Time: 53.18
e-mail: info@appleseedrec.com

This review is written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 3/04

For very nearly 20 years I have carried around with me an amateur recording of this trio in concert. I have all but worn it out. What a delight therefore to be presented for review with this much better recording!

In 1984, folk superstar Tom Paxton, teamed up with the then relatively unknown Anne Hills, and the by then almost shamefully neglected Bob Gibson, to form a trio. As they were the best of friends, they had no problem when it came to finding a name. Alas, they only lasted some 18 months, and they were never to go into the recording studio: but some of us were blessed to see them on their tours of the US, Canada and the UK. They were a trio that has never been bettered, and perhaps never even been equalled. A truly mellifluous blend of voices and musicianship.

This CD is the result of the taping of a gig in February 1985 at Holsteins, a Chicago club. The recording was subsequently broadcast on WFMT-FM. And thus it is that we miraculously find it seeing the light of day as a 2004 CD, which thus serves as the only official aural documentation of this lamentably gone-far-too-soon grouping.

What did they have exactly? Well, whatever it was, it was GREATER than the “sum of the individual parts”… and heaven knows, they were great enough in themselves.

I don't think I need say anything about Paxton: if you don't know just what he brings to the microphone and the songbook, then perhaps you alighted at the wrong website! A true giant, with the warmest of baritone voices and great skill with harmonies.

Anne Hills brings the kind of purity of vocal tone to the proceedings that would make even spring mountain water seem polluted. And to boot, whilst not a well-known writer, shows she is no slouch at the art, with “While You Sleep”, a fine song that I have heard in my head at least monthly for some 20 years now.

But then there is the late Bob Gibson. Now here is the guy that really made them tick. A reason why perhaps they never got back together again, was that he fell very sick with the same rare progressive nerve disease that killed actor Dudley Moore (supranuclear palsy) and was himself to die in 1996. But heck, while he was around, he didn't half pull his weight in this group!

Although he was a noted exponent of the 12-string guitar, it is his plaintive banjo that delights here…added to his gentle tenor voice that neatly complements Paxton's more earthy baritone. The tracks are all of a high standard ­ no dud tracks here folks to be used as Polyfilla ­ but that said, some really jump out at you. None more so than Bob's own co-written “Let The Band Play Dixie” which is a candidate for my favourite song of all time. Oh those words! And those rhymes! And what a chorus!

And if you thought that the chewing gum had lost its flavour with “Rambling Boy”, try that old favourite again here. They almost turn the chorus into a version of singing “rounds”: very inventive. And there's the late Shel Silverstein's opening song - “Sing for the Song” - which they deliver with real brio: a song that should be the philosophy of every true folkie.

And mentioning that much-threatened species: every true folkie should get out and buy this album. It is April as I write, and I can safely say that you will not find its equal in the rest of the year.

Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England

Track List:

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