It was in 2008 that Tom brought out the self-funded ‘Skybound,’ the follow-up to the 2004 debut ‘Feather & Stone,’ which first alerted the wider world to his singular talent for absolutely believable, emotionally immersive composition. Since then, he’s released one fan-only album, travelled the world, been through plenty of soul-searching and emerged at the other end with what may well be his best-ever work.
Baxter made his name with such heart-stopping originals as ‘Better,’ ‘Almost There’ and ‘Day in Verona,’ and his songs have been covered by much-loved entertainers from Dame Shirley Bassey all the way to Boyzone. He’s admired by the likes of Tom Waits, Rufus Wainwright, Gary Barlow and actor David Schwimmer, and by a steadfast set of fans that waited patiently for the release of his latest album.
‘The Other Side of Blue’ is entirely free of “production camouflage”, as he puts it, and is underpinned by ‘The Ballad of Davey Graham’, the song he was inspired to write after a request to play at the unveiling of a blue plaque for the great guitar pioneer of the title. In a moment of pure serendipity, Davey’s partner had written to request Tom’s contribution because Graham was not only an admirer of his, but she revealed that Baxter’s music was the last that Davey had listened to. Not that of Paul Simon, Jimmy Page or any of the other superstars he had inspired, but Tom Baxter.
What they didn’t know is that the revelation completed a perfect circle, because Davey had been one of the very inspirations for Baxter to pick up a guitar in the first place. Tom duly paid back the compliment by playing at the ceremony, and found that the whole experience refuelled his creative spirits to remarkable effect. He went on to finish what would become ‘The Other Side Of Blue’ with a renewed sense of his place in the musical ecosystem. As he describes the record himself, “There’s no bells or whistles. Just me, myself and I, with absolutely nowhere to hide.”
Baxter’s albums have always enveloped the listener with a delicious intensity, and so it is again on ‘The Other Side of Blue,’ which takes us from the heart-wrenching title track and others such as ‘For Crying Out Loud,’ to the happier place that Tom now himself inhabits, expressed in the gentle optimism of ‘When I’m In Your Hands.’
An English original has returned.