IT WON'T much matter whether you've known the work of folksinger Tom Paxton through every one of his last 24 years behind a microphone. It only takes a few moments with Paxton's newest album, his 26th album, to know how -- and how well -- this gently outraged songwriter feels.
The album title -- "One Million Lawyers . . . and Other Disasters" -- may provide a clue, eh? So might some of the song titles among this dead-eye collection of 11 of Paxton's most recent lampoons (plus two serious laments, for closed-down factories and foreclosed-upon farmers): "Sold a Hammer to the Pentagon," "Don't Slay That Potato" (an impassioned, ridiculously enjoyable plea) and "Yuppies in the Sky," the last a priceless encounter with an ethereal herd of you-can-have- it-all has-beens, forever cruising Columbus Avenue with a solemn, sad chant: "Condos for sale, condos to buy . . . "
The arrangements, as usual, are sprightly and spare -- and their quirky, small-cabaret feel is enhanced by a backup chorus of Anne Hills and Cindy Mangsen, and by the deft, multi-instrumental insouciance of Howard Levy (whose disrespectful little gem of a saxophone solo makes "The Day We Lost the America's Cup" a must-hear study in high musical sarcasm).
Paxton's written more than a thousand and a half songs -- including the heartfelt likes of "Last Thing on My Mind" and "Rambling Boy" -- since he first started singing for spare change at Greenwich Village's Gaslight club in 1962. May he write a thousand more as sharp and deeply playful as these.
TOM PAXTON -- "One Million Lawyers . . . and Other Disasters" (Flying Fish FF356); appearing solo Saturday at the Barns of Wolf Trap.