A Review of the CD
"Under American Skies"
by Tom Paxton and Anne Hills

"Under American Skies"
by Tom Paxton and Anne Hills

Copyright 2001 - Appleseed 1052
Appleseed Records
P.O. Box 2593
West Chester, PA 19380
ph: (610)701-5755

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 7/01
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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Drag out those well-worn bell bottoms. Slap on some patchouli oil and start practicing that ubiquitous peace sign. Wait, hold on just a minute. While the focus of this release is thoroughly steeped in social consciousness, it doesn't attempt to simply turn back the clock to the '60s and '70s. Rather, the nexus is on learning from the past while focusing on the present, with a hopeful eye cast on the future.

Long-time folk music veterans, Paxton and Hills, re-team on this release, having been part of a trio years ago (along with the late Bob Gibson). They have chosen eight tunes written by either one or the other, plus a handful of other songs--most carrying the indelible flavor of social justice.

The most moving cut is the Tom Russell-penned "Manzanar." In today's shadow of ethnic cleansing and terror unleashed by supremacist groups throughout the world, Paxton sings of the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War Two. Uprooted and exiled to the California desert, Nakashimau, the lead character in the song, ironically notes that although Manzanar is Spanish for apple orchards:

"...though we saw no apple trees
just the rows of prison barracks
with the barbed wire boundaries..."
The present elevated debate both here and throughout the world over the application of capital punishment in this country gets added material in "Under American Skies." The song's chorus says it all:
"...when we ended slavery
we all went free
when we stopped child labor
that was victory
when women start voting
true democracy
but we still haven't got it
and we can't let it be
when we're part of the system
against it or willing
and every last time
that the State does the killing
a part of us dies
under American skies..."
Lashing out at the destruction of nature in "There Goes The Mountain," Paxton and Hills share vocals. About both mining practices and mining itself, the chorus goes:
"...there goes the mountain
the avalanche maker
heaven's caretaker
breeder of streams
there goes the mountain
maker of thunder
torn down for plunder
remembered in dreams..."
Richard Farina's "Birmingham Sunday" and Gil Turner's "Carry it On" evoke memories of the social strife and barbarous acts committed in 1960's America. The young women murdered in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley and Carol Robertson, are all somberly noted in "Birmingham Sunday."

"Well, Well, Well" features the harmonies of Paxton and Hills in an engaging version of the spiritual-like tune.

Veering away from social content, the duo delve into the vagaries of relationships. Paxton offers a version of Hills' well known tune "Follow That Road." Hills performs extremely touching renditions of Paxton's "Gettin' Up Early" and "Pandora's Box."

Welcome back the teaming up of these two. This is a release that engages both the heart and mind. You decide about the soul.

Track List:

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