Words by Garth Cartwright
Tom Paley is something of a living legend. One of the handful of musicians who kicked off the US folk revival in the late 1940s, he was a founder member of the New Lost City Ramblers, the remarkable trio who inspired Bob Dylan (amongst others). Paley has continued to play folk clubs and festivals in the UK, Sweden and the US over the decades and release the occasional album but Roll On, Roll On is something else indeed. The debut release from new London label Hornbeam, it finds Paley surrounded by a crack team of pickers and recorded in a relaxed atmosphere that brings the best of the music out.
The album opens with Paley’s ‘Roll On, Roll On’ – this in itself is fascinating to hear as Paley has always been more of an interpreter than a songwriter – and closes with Leadbelly’s anthemic ‘The Midnight Special’ (Paley knew Leadbelly back in the 1940s). In between, there are all kinds of traditional American songs including ‘The Mourning Blues’ by Uncle Dave Macon (an original inspiration for Paley), the wonderfully titled ‘Shove That Pig’s Foot A Little Further In The Fire’ and ‘The Whiskey Seller’, an old New Lost City Ramblers song. The band accompanying Paley play superbly and, while his voice is a little croaky at times, this only adds flavour to these songs that, in some cases, date back centuries. Beautifully packaged with excellent liner notes, Roll On, Roll On is a great celebration of a remarkable talent and a simply lovely album.