Tom Maxwell's name might not sound familiar, but chances are you've
heard his voice. Maxwell, who wrote and sang the Squirrel Nut
Zippers' hit, "Hell," has quit the band and released
his solo album that's as diverse as the talents of its creator.
Not only did he write almost all 15 tracks, but he also sings
on many of the cuts and plays guitar, sax, drums, clarinet, and
a few other instruments along the way. Maxwell is also backed
by his old pals Ken Mosher, Stu Cole, and Chris Phillips, as well
as several other notable musicians, including Holly Harding Baddour,
a fresh female vocalist who compliments Maxwell's baritone flavor
remarkably throughout the album.
(Samsara Limited) kicks off with three barn-burners: "Sixes
and Sevens to Me," "The Uptown Stomp," and "Can't
Sleep," the latter of which features the dangerously soulful
Remember Vocal Quartet, who appear later on the equally hot "Roll
the Bones." Then comes the highlight of the album, Maxwell's
"If I Had You," which, had it been written 70 years
ago, would have been recorded by the likes of Bing Crosby, Billie
Holiday, or Frank Sinatra. Instead, Maxwell recruited Harding
Baddour to sing his composition, which she does with a delicious
fusion of beauty and blues.
fans of Maxwell's vintage eerie sound and arrangements, there
is the spooky interpretation of Ellington's "The Mooche,"
as well as "Caveat Emptor" and the title track, which
closes the album perfectly with Maxwell's poetic lyrics, Baddour's
haunting, ethereal vocals and the talented Emily Laurance's harp
to regard everything as though it were a dream," we read
in the liner notes for this impressive debut. And dreamlike it
is, as Maxwell masterfully combines several musical elements and
loads of talent to create a soulful, well-structures album that
shows promise of a bright future for an artist who certainly deserves
it. For rare in this age are artists who can capture the imagination
and keep it amused the way Tom Maxwell does and will surely continue