Words by Garth Cartwright
Octogenarian Tom Paley was a member of the New Lost City Ramblers, one of the pioneering American folk revival bands in the 50s before he moved to the UK in 1966. Here he taught mathematics and played folk clubs, largely under the radar, until London’s Hornbeam Recordings produced his joyous 2012 album Roll On, Roll On, attracting a great deal of attention to a musician who first began his career performing alongside the likes of Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly. Paley & Son finds Tom, who plays guitar, banjo and fiddle, returning to the studio with his fiddle-playing son Ben. There are several instrumentals alongside some American songs that Tom surely learned in his youth by Mississippi John Hurt, Turner Smothers and Will Handy alongside folk standards. The Paleys handle every performance beautifully, accompanied as they are by a superb rhythm section, and while Tom’s voice is a little croaky he sings with great warmth and wit. BJ Cole adds startling dobro to ‘Done Gone’ while Cerys Matthews’ guitar and rich voice add texture to the gospel standard ‘This Train’. Beautifully produced and packaged – Hornbeam’s albums are works of art – Paley & Son is a delight from start to finish.