Bluegrass Sings Paxton is a sparkling, genre-wide salute to an acclaimed songwriter

Article Contributed by Mountain Home … | Published on Wednesday, July 10, 2024

 A multi-artist collection from Mountain Home Music Company, Bluegrass Sings Paxton is a sparkling, genre-wide salute to songwriter Tom Paxton, whose “The Last Thing On My Mind” and “I Can’t Help But Wonder Where I’m Bound” are bluegrass standards, but whose broader catalog has remained largely unexplored by the genre’s artists.

The album is now available for pre-save/add ahead of its August 30 release.

To highlight the depth and breadth of a body of work that helped to earn Paxton a Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY Award, producers Cathy Fink and Jon Weisberger gathered a wide-ranging clutch of bluegrass singers and pickers, from Hall of Fame members to current award winners, tackling classics, hidden gems from across the decades, and even a couple of songs written specially for the project. With sympathetic readings, spirited performances and a palpable sense of artistic connection across generations, geographies and communities, Bluegrass Sings Paxton offers not just a tribute, but a well-rounded portrait of today’s bluegrass.

Bookending the set’s dozen entries are the most prominent Paxton touchstones, given freshly compelling treatments by two of the bluegrass community’s most treasured female-forward ensembles, Della Mae —joined here by Paxton himself — and Sister Sadie. Current IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year Greg Blake offers a similarly updated take on “Leaving London,” a song that has appeared on the set lists of both the iconic Hall of Famer Doc Watson and current stadium bluegrass phenom Billy Strings, while another Hall of Fame member, Alice Gerrard, turns in a gently swinging version of the minor-key “The Things I Notice Now.” Three-time IBMA Male Vocalist award recipient Danny Paisley eagerly took on “Ramblin’ Boy,” brought into bluegrass over 50 years ago by the Kentucky Mountain Boys, and still another IBMA Male Vocalist — and GRAMMY — award winner, Tim O’Brien, and his band contributed the project’s second single, a brand new, gospel-tinged song written by Paxton, O’Brien and bandmate Jan Fabricius, “You Took Me In.”   

Female Vocalists of the Year turn up on Bluegrass Sings Paxton, too; West Coast legend Laurie Lewis gives a pensive reading of “Central Square,” while Claire Lynch offered up the album’s tender first single, “I Give You The Morning.” Rounding out the list of featured performers are the GRAMMY-winning partnership of Fink and Marcy Marxer, backed by members of Della Mae; Mountain Home’s frequent chart-topper and IBMA award winner Chris Jones (“The Last Hobo,” the project’s third single); singer/songwriter Aaron Burdett, currently in his second year as singer and guitarist with the Steep Canyon Rangers; and distinctive vocalist Sav Sankaran, who holds down the bass slot with hit-making bluegrass quintet Unspoken Tradition and has led on several of the group’s #1 hits.  

Backing on most of these selections comes from an equally all-star group: guitarist Jones; Steve Martin Prize and frequent IBMA Banjo Player of the Year Kristin Scott Benson; Mountain Home’s Darren Nicholson (mandolin); Sister Sadie founder and 2020 IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year Deanie Richardson; and bassist Nelson Williams (Chris Jones & the Night Drivers, Jake Blount, New Dangerfield). Like harmony singers Travis Book (The Infamous Stringdusters) and Wendy Hickman, they’re always supportive, yet ready to take the spotlight with inspired solos that yield wordless, yet unmistakable interpretations of each song.

“When Cathy asked me to take on this project,” says Weisberger, “we agreed from the start that it was critical for us to embrace the whole range of today’s bluegrass in reaching out for participation. It’s exciting to see such a diverse group of great musicians joining one another to celebrate the work of a great songwriter and musician who has always embraced diversity himself. I truly believe that anyone who listens to Bluegrass Sings Paxton will come away impressed, not only with the depth and breadth of Tom Paxton’s songwriting, but with the depth and breadth of the interpretative and creative talent to be found in bluegrass today. Most of all, I hope that every listener will find music here to uplift and inspire them!”

Pre-save/add Bluegrass Sings Paxton HERE.