David Baxter’s Patina
“Patina” may be an unusual title for a second album, but it’s an appropriate one for David Baxter’s sophomore release. Having spent more than 30 years in the music business before releasing his debut (2009’s CFMA-nominated “Day & Age”), Baxter has earned a well-worn aura of his own.
The prolific, Juno-nominated producer, who’s also made his name as one of the best electric guitar players in Toronto, got his professional start in 1975 playing with David Wilcox and the Teddy Bears.
Baxter’s many years spent as a sideman, or behind the glass working with other artists, have placed him at the centre of a group of terrific musicians. In the past year alone, he’s produced albums for Catherine MacLellan, Jadea Kelly, Jack Marks and Joshua Cockerill, all of whom sing back-up on “Patina.”
These kinds of intimate musical connections make it easy for David Baxter to bring together a stellar cast of musicians when it’s time to present his own work. At the launch of “Patina” at Toronto’s Dakota Tavern, Justin Rutledge, Treasa Levasseur, Brian Kobayakawa, Burke Carroll and Gary Craig – all musicians who played on the recording – provided the backing band.
Playing with people he’s worked with closely and knows well gives Baxter’s stage show an endearing sense of community. His band on this night had the precision of a road-tested ensemble rather than a mere collection of first-rate musicians assembled for the gig.
So long accustomed to backing up other musicians, Baxter simply shines in the spotlight. The vitality and joy that’s evident every time this veteran takes the stage is as moving as it is rare. This is the ultimate setting for hearing the songs from “Patina”.
After a career of such diverse experiences, Baxter isn’t afraid to mingle seemingly incongruous musical traditions in his own songwriting, travelling the full spectrum of possible country music sub-genres. He plays with geographical reference both lyrically and instrumentally to create a collection of songs that’s completely out of time and place.
On a song about “The Sweetest Flower in Ontario,” he adds a long-i drawl to the province’s name, while the next track is a heavily zydeco-flavoured jam about a road trip along the Mississippi River.
The twelve tracks on Patina are strong on storytelling, examining a breadth of experience – from a father’s advice on how to live, to a barroom warning about a woman who’s fallen off the wagon again. The songs, and the characters within, feel real without being sketched too clearly. Baxter has a deft hand with lyrical imagery, leaving enough space between ideas for the music, and specifically his own lead guitar, to tell the story.
While a fine collection of songs played by some of the best musicians in Toronto, the album is no substitute for seeing David Baxter and his band perform live. The true patina is the warm glow of a seasoned veteran surrounded by his own admirers, channeling the lessons of a lifetime spent making music into every joyful note.