tue 27/02/2024

CD: Tom Baxter - The Other Side of Blue | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Tom Baxter - The Other Side of Blue

CD: Tom Baxter - The Other Side of Blue

After 10 years, Baxter breaks the silence

Tom Baxter: a benediction from Davey Graham

It’s been a decade since we last heard from Tom Baxter when he released his second album Skybound, which itself was four years after his debut Feather & Stone.

That album included “Almost There”, a song somewhat implausibly covered by Shirley Bassey; Baxter accompanied her when she sang it at the Roundhouse’s Electric Proms.

As the title suggests, it’s been a somewhat tricky 10 years for this very English singer-songwriter, one of four children of Jeff and Julie Gleave whom folkies with long memories may remember from the 1960s and ‘70s folk circuit. So with Rufus Wainwright and Tom Waits also among those who have recorded his work, Baxter returns to the scene with a good pedigree. Added to which it turns out the late great Davey Graham was an admirer – a request from his partner to unveil a blue plaque inspired “The Ballad of Davey Graham”, a key song on The Other Side of Blue and a homage to the figure who had prompted the then 13-year-old Baxter to pick up the guitar in the first place. Poignantly, Baxter’s music was the last Graham listened to.

This generously filled album practically defines the term singer-songwriter, for Baxter here flies solo, his piano- and guitar-playing and vocals unadorned by what he calls “production camouflage” of the sort which disguises the thin or failing talents of so many. Indeed, there’s a real live feel to the album – a genuine sense that pitching up to see Baxter on his extensive tour, which begins in Belfast at the end of September, would offer the same experience as listening to Blue in the comfort of your own headphones.

The years between Skybound and The Other Side of Blue have been tricky for Baxter, and much of the story is told in the songs of course. He married, divorced, travelled widely, gaining a whole world of musical experience, and is now happily remarried, songs such as “Black Are the Gypsy Horses” reflecting his new-found joys. The songs are deeply personal but also universal, music for “sad young souls” who’ve experienced “the travesty of love” and for those who’ve since found “diamonds, sapphires and pearls”, and the album has a warmth and intimacy that immediately draws you in but reveals more with each listening.

Liz Thomson's website

There’s a sense that pitching up to see Baxter on tour would offer the same experience as listening in your own headphones


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