The Ramblin’ Boy is Stopping Ramblin’

Back in January, one of my favorite folk icons announced that he was stopping touring. After years upon years of making tens and tens of dollars in folk clubs, Tom Paxton was giving up touring. As he wrote in his January newsletter:

It’s going to be an extraordinarily busy year for me because I’ve decided to quit touring after playing The Birchmere in Alexandria, VA in November. The wear and tear are getting to be serious and you all know how awful travel is becoming for us all. So after the Birch, just the odd date here and there, songwriting, but no more touring.

I think another factor in the end of touring was the passing of Tom’s wife, Midge, although he hasn’t said as much.  Instead, he attributes it to the wear and tear of the road, as described  in another interview that I found:

It just became obvious to me that it was time for me to stop touring. I’ve been doing it for 55 years and touring has become very hard for me. Airports are just awful places for me now, they’re exhausting. And I’m just tired of the physical strain of touring. So in November I’m going to say goodbye to it. I’m not going to retire. I’m still going to perform, but it’ll be one-off deals. No more touring.

Luckily, he still plans to write and record:

Oh yeah, I’m still writing. There will be another album down the road. I’m going to be spending more time in Nashville. I have friends down there that I write with and I want to go and write with them some more.

At the time I got Tom’s retirement message, Tom’s only California dates were some dates with Janis Ian in Berkeley in late April. He had last been in LA in 2013. Luckily, he added more dates over the summer: in particular, for the last two nights he made his regular and final pilgrimage to McCabes (FB) in Santa Monica. We were lucky enough to be able to get tickets to his last performance on his last night.

A few general observations on the show itself, before I get into the set list. Tom made no mention of the fact that he was stopping touring, or that this would be his last performance at McCabes (although the announcer did). Tom’s focus was on his new album, Redemption Road, from which many of the songs came (and for which we helped Kickstart). For someone who doesn’t like to stare back, there was a fair amount of reminiscences about the early days of 1963 and the days at the Gaslight.

The show itself was a mix of some oldies, and many songs from the new album. He was accompanied, as he is often accompanied, by Fred Sokolow and Fred’s son, Zac Sokolow. The show consisted of the following songs (* indicates new for this year; ♫ indicates songs from Redemption Road):

Act I Act II
How Beautiful Upon The Mountain
Your Shoes, My Shoes
Time To Spare*
Battle of the Sexes ♫
There Goes the Mountain
Whose Garden Was This?
If The Poor Don’t Matter ♫*
My Pony Knows The Way
And If It’s Not True
Central Square ♫
Bottle of Wine
Virginia Morning ♫
Come Away With Me *
Buffalo Dreams ♫
Did You Hear John Hurt?
The Mayor of MacDougal Street ♫*
Susie Most of All ♫*
Ireland ♫
My Lady’s A Wild, Flying Dove*
Last Thing on My Mind
Ramblin’ Boy
The Bravest
Comedians and Angels
Redemption Road ♫

I’ll be sad to see Tom go off the road, but I understand the grind well — and how, at his age, he deserves some time to work on songs and not be running from city to city to city (to city). The life of a folk musician is hard, and Tom’s Kickstarter demonstrated there is an audience for his music willing to fund production. I wish him well in this phase of his career, and home that a special event might bring him back to this coast occasionally.

OK, McCabes (FB): The challenge is up to you. You now need to book some new favorites, such as the Austin Lounge Lizards (FB) or Blair Crimmons and the Hookers (FB).

Ob. Disclaimer (for theatre — but I’m not a folk music critic either): I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I subscribe at three theatres:  REP East (FB), The Colony Theatre (FB), and Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Next weekend brings two shows: The Four Clowns Present Hamlet at The Shakespeare Center (FB) on Friday, and “The Diviners” at REP East (FB) on Saturday. The following weekend sees us going down to La Mirada to see “First Date” at The La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts (FB). October was being held for the NoHo Fringe Festival (FB), but they haven’t put up the Fringe shows yet, so I’ve started booking weekends. The first weekend of October brings “The Baker’s Wife” at Actors Co-op (FB) in Hollywood. The second weekend of October brings “The Best of Enemies” at The Colony Theatre (FB). The third weekend of October takes us to Thousand Oaks for “Damn Yankees” at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). The fourth weekend of October brings “Uncle Vanya” at Antaeus Theatre Company (FB) in North Hollywood. Halloween weekend sees me at CSUN for Urinetown, and then both of us out in Simi Valley for “The Addams Family” at the Simi Cultural Arts Center (Simi Actors Rep Theatre (FB)). The following weekend sees us back in Simi for the Nottingham Festival (FB) on November 7. We then go out to Perris for “A Day Out with Thomas” at Orange Empire Railway Museum (FB) on November 11 (I can’t skip seeing my buddy Thomas and his friend Percy). The bookings for November conclude with Deathtrap at REP East (FB) on November 14; the rest of the month is currently open. December brings “Humble Boy” at The Colony Theatre (FB) the first weekend, followed by a mid-week stint as a producer, when we present The Nigerian Spam Scam Scam as the dinner entertainment at the Annual Computer Security Applications Conference (ACSAC). December also has dates held for “The Bridges of Madison County” at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) and “If/Then” at the Pantages (FB). There are also a few other interesting productions I’m keeping my eyes open for. The first is the Fall show at The Blank Theatre (FB), “Something Truly Monstrous”, sounds wonderful — however, it runs through November 8, so squeezing it in would mean a double weekend. The show at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (FB) also sounds like an interesting exploration of clutter —  but “The Object Lesson” only runs through October 4, and I’m not sure we can squeeze it in. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411.