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A founding member of the New Lost City Ramblers in the late 1950s alongside Mike Seeger and John Cohen, Paley fuelled a revival in old-time music when it was regarded as a parochial throwback, all but forgotten and overtaken by the popularity of bluegrass.
Though Paley quit the Ramblers for a career in academia as the folk boom took off in the early 60s, his playing, both directly and indirectly, was a source of inspiration to people such as Dave Van Ronk, Bob Dylan, Jerry Garcia and Ry Cooder.
From the tinder-dry mix of banjo, fiddle and guitar it would be easy to imagine this album being taped in the yard of a old Appalachian stick shack. Instead, we find Paley ensconced in the unlikely surroundings of St. Albans – now in his 80s, he’s fine voice and rude health.
There’s a warm twinkling hint of Burl Ives to be heard as he sings through songs that often possess a comical bent. The self-penned Beelzebubbles outlines the pros and cons of dating the devil’s daughter, whilst others line up one cautionary testimony after another regarding the perils of what can happen when you mix your whisky with women.
As the title suggests, this is a gentle, easy-going ramble of an album. But the pace can pick up from time to time, as on the sprightly interplay between fiddle (played by Paley’s son, Ben) and banjo during Little Rabbit.
And Paley is still passing on his experience to new generations of players. Brit-folk movers such as The Owl Service’s Jason Steel and Robin Gillan are heard raising their voices in sweet, old-time harmony here.
An hour in the company of Tom Paley and his revue is an hour well spent.
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