Tom Paxton, Anne Hills & Bob Gibson,
Best of Friends
(Appleseed, 2004)

Best of Friends may be a new release in 2004, but it was actually taped almost two decades ago. The trio got together in 1984 as Best of Friends and performed for about a year and half but never recorded an album. The present release was taped in Chicago in February 1985 and a piece of folk history was preserved, thank God.

With just vocals, guitars, banjo and bass, the talent shines through the years as we realize that good songs well-sung do not need high-end recording and engineering.

Opening with the lovely "Sing for the Song," they set the tone as they encourage people to sing for the song rather than the fame or fortune. "Home to Me" is another beautiful track from the pen of Paxton, but the performance enhances it. Each singer taking a few lines before going into the most accomplished harmony is magical. Again, it is the simplicity that entrances.

In keeping with the Appleseed Records philosophy of "sowing seeds of social justice through music," the trio perform the poignant "The Death of Stephen Biko." Hills wrote the haunting "While You Sleep" and takes lead vocal on it to great effect.

"She Sits on the Table" is classic Paxton. Here we have a gentle sound, a poignant story, and a beautiful song drawn from life. Gibson and Dave North wrote "Let the Band Play Dixie" and give us a lovely historical story set to music.

"Something's Wrong with the Rain" is a lovely ecology song using humour to get a serious issue across. The spoken introduction sets the scene beautifully. We go back to his roots with Paxton on his "Ramblin' Boy" and "Bottle of Wine." The high esteem of the legal profession gets the treatment on the hilarious "One Million Lawyers."

With the feel of live performance and the excellent introductory chats, this is a lovely album and a necessary addition to the library of any lover of folk music.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 1 May 2004

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