• An appearance or aura derived from association, habit, or established character (Miriam-Webster Dictionary);
• The sheen produced by age and use on any antique surface (Heritage Dictionary)
• A gloss or sheen produced by age and polishing (Oxford Dictionary)
Patina is not something that is acquired overnight, and, with a career stretching back over 30 years, David Baxter has certainly logged the hours — the years — necessary to give his music a warm glow steeped in the rich traditions of Canadian and American roots songwriting.
With more than 30 years of songwriting, recording, producing and performing behind him, Baxter has earned a reputation as the “go-to” figure for Canadian roots music artists. “Think of me as a north-of-the border T-Bone Burnett,” he laughs, “a producer and player who, every now and then, puts out a record of his own songs.”
There’s a smoothness, a richness, to his multi-faceted musical life. If you want to call that a “gloss or sheen produced by age and polishing” you’re welcome to do so. There’s a lot of “heart” in Baxter’s songs, and a lot of heartbreak, water-under-the-bridge story telling that has a great deal of reality behind it.
Patina? You bet.
Patina is also the title of his new recording. And the dictionary definitions perfectly sum up the unique mixture of spirited music — new and old at the same time — that Baxter has always delivered.
The new release features a more fully realized band sound, featuring Baxter’s voice and signature electric guitar; it takes Patina further downtown from the dusty acoustic country road he traveled on his critically acclaimed 2009 debut, Day and Age. (“Baxter triumphs in his solo debut,” said the Globe and Mail). Baxter was nominated for a 2009 Canadian Folk Music Award — ironically for a 55 year-old, as best new or emerging artist!
Self-assured and self-produced, the new CD features a Toronto roots music A-list band of friends, including Justin Rutledge and Treasa Levasseur, and there’s a lovely duet with Catherine MacLellan. Gary Craig and Blake Manning share drums and percussion roles, Jason Sniderman adds organ and piano; ace steel player Burke Carroll is featured as well as bassist Brian Kobayakawa. Guests include Vancouver’s Del Barber on harmomnica, fiddle players Kendel Carson and Miranda Mulholland, and half a dozen backup singers including Jadea Kelly, Lynne Hanson, Joshua Cockerill and Jack Marks.
“Patina moves the music out onto the dance floor, with honky-tonk shuffles, two-steps, folk-rock, even some zydeco,” says Baxter. “Country music has always been about hurt and heartache, so you’d might as well dance.”
Always busy with his own Knob and Tube recording facility in Toronto, Baxter has produced recordings in the past 12 months for rising artists Joshua Cockerill, Jadea Kelly, Jack Marks, and Lynne Hanson. He has just finished work on a new CDs by Catherine MacLellan; he’s in the studio as this is written with Corin Raymond and the Sundowners.
Baxter also continues to work regularly as an in-demand sideman on tour and in the studio — he played some 150 dates last year, and expects to match that in 2011. His tremolo guitar can be heard regularly on Degrassi: The Next Generation, where he has contributed to the score for 10 seasons.