Tom Paxton

The folk hero thrills the crowds at the Fiddlers Green Festival, writes Damian Murray

It's a real coup for Rostrevor’s annual Fiddlers Green Festival to attract an artist the calibre of Tom Paxton. The organisers will return the favour when the legendary folk singer receives the festival’s Creative Arts Award in recognition of his life long achievement in performance and song writing.

Sporting his trade-mark fisherman’s hat and superbly accompanied throughout on various guitars by Dungarvan-based singer-songwriter Kevin Evans, the American troubadour plays for two hours in an intimate, 200-seater venue, mixing old and new material drawn from his vast repertoire.

Paxton is a supreme storyteller, whether he sings a sentimental love ballad, quirky novelty song or anti-war anthem, Both lyrically and as a raconteur, he puts his audience at ease in order to fully engage with them.

After playing his early novelty hit 'The Marvelous Toy', written 50-years ago and one of the oldest songs that he still performs, the amiable Paxton jokingly asks the sell-out crowd ‘How many of you thought that Peter, Paul and Mary had written that song?'

His impish sense of humour is perfectly highlighted in the cleverly worded 'Wasn’t That A Party?', after which he successfully encourages some impulse buying by saying that his CDs are on sale at the gig and also on the internet. He adds, tongue-in-cheek, ‘but I won’t be signing those ones tonight!'

After the interval Kevin Evans, whose songs have been recorded by Christy Moore, Liam Clancy and Tommy Fleming, gets his chance to shine with a selection of his own material, including 'A Much Better View Of The Moon', which displays so much optimism in its quirky lyrics that it could well have been written by Paxton himself.

The headline artist returns with his sing-a-long 'Bottle Of Wine'. He tells of how he once had to relearn his own song in French. Not an easy task, apparently. There are also musical tributes to the hard-working people at Corrymela, and, being the loving family man that he is, to his daughters Jennifer and Kate and to his wife of almost 50 years, Midge ('Marry Me Again').

Standing ovations follow the ever popular sing-a-longs 'The Last Thing On My Mind' (including a more risqué alternative version found on the internet) and 'Ramblin’ Boy', which sees Paxton joined on vocals by the boys from the local Sands Family.

As working-class musical heroes go, Tom Paxton is as good as they get: a very welcome addition to another thoroughly entertaining Fiddlers Green Festival.