New York, NY (Top40 Charts)
Over the course of his 50-year-plus career, one of Tom Rush's defining gifts has been his ear for the faint voices of significant new songs by little-known writers. The New England-based singer-guitarist, a surviving giant of the early '60s folk boom, was among the very first to record future standards by then-fledgling performers Joni Mitchell, James
Taylor and Jackson Browne
on his 1968 album The Circle Game; he brought a later generation of singer-songwriters such as Nanci Griffith and Shawn Colvin
to wider audiences as part of his tours. Taylor and country music superstar Garth Brooks
have both named him as a major influence.
Until his new Voices CD (Appleseed Recordings, street date April 27, 2018), Rush has been heard only sparingly as a songwriter, with only a few tantalizing handfuls of originals - about 20 - spread out over eleven studio albums, most notably "No Regrets," a classic of stoic farewell on that '68 LP that later became a multi-genre chart hit in three cover versions. Voices is the first album ever of all-Rush originals, ten relaxed, warmhearted, amused and sometimes thoughtful songs that perfectly reflect Tom's wry persona. (Harkening back to Rush's early '60s roots in Boston
as a folk/blues interpreter are two traditional tracks, "Corina, Corina" and the opening "Elder Green," included because "I didn't want to compromise my folksinger credentials," Tom explains in the liner notes.) He writes songs shorn of elaborate metaphors, preferring straightforward, evocative emotional settings. Then his warm baritone, tanned by experience, humor and melancholy, shines right through the lyrics, illuminating them from within.
Rush can't pinpoint the reason for the late surge in his songwriting at an age (77) when creativity could be expected to dry up. But he has a theory: "It might be some musical equivalent of epicormics branching, where a tree that's stressed or elderly starts putting out shoots in great profusion." If stress is a motivator, Tom and the songs sure don't show it. He favors first-person celebrations of satisfied love (the peaceful "Far Away," a tribute to his wife; "Come See About Me," "My Best Girl," "Heaven Knows [But It Ain't Tellin']" and appreciations of the moment ("Life is Fine," "How Can She Dance like That?"). The goofy wordplay of "If I Never Get Back to Hackensack," a pinball rollcall of the Garden State's more colorful town names (Squankum, Manuka Chunk, Peapack, et al.) is worthy of a place alongside Woody Guthrie's and Pete Seeger's children's songs. "Cold River" is a sparse running-from-the-law vignette in the folk tradition, and "Going Down to Nashville," which Tom describes as "finally an age-appropriate song," is an understated tying up of loose ends with an old love. The CD's closing title track invokes the eternal music of life, the songbook of sounds that surround us, felt if not often heard, and "the songs that sing the truest are in the key of love," a life lesson cherished and passed along.
"Tom is a music legend, a wisdom keeper and we are honored to be releasing a third CD by him," says Appleseed president Jim Musselman.
As on Rush's previous studio album, 2009's What I Know (Appleseed), his first studio release in 35 tour-filled years, his smiling, understated delivery, and exemplary skills as an acoustic guitarist are sympathetically framed by a crew of Nashville-based studio musicians helmed by musician-turned-Grammy-Award-winning producer Jim Rooney, a Rush contemporary on the Boston
scene way back who has since worked with Nancy Griffith, John Prine
and Iris DeMent, among others. Sidemen include Dobro/pedal steel ace Al Perkins (ex-Flying Burrito Brothers, Stephen Stills' Manassas, Emmylou Harris), bluegrass great Sam Bush (New Grass Revival, Bela Fleck's Flecktones) on mandolin, fiddle, country/bluegrass singers Kathy Mattea and Suzi Ragsdale (on backing vocals), and Matt Nakoa (keyboards, backing vocals), a solo artist who has become a frequent Rush tour accompanist.
About Tom Rush:
Born in Portsmouth, N.H., in 1941, Tom Rush became an integral part of the Boston/Cambridge folk scene of the early '60s, performing folk and blues and recording three albums in the traditional idiom. In 1966, Elektra issued Tom's Take a Little
Walk With Me, with its influential mixture of mostly traditional songs on one side and an electric band on the other. His next album was a turning point for him and for the entire contemporary music scene: Retroactively tipped by Rolling Stone as the album that launched the singer-songwriter genre, The Circle Game (1968) showcased songs by then-unknown Joni Mitchell, James
Taylor and Jackson Browne. By 1974, after moving to Columbia Records and an increasingly country-rock direction on several albums, Rush decided to drop out of the touring/recording cycle for a while; he soon resumed touring, but his only recordings for the next ten years were a pair of live recordings of holiday shows on his own Night Light Recordings. These concerts, first staged in 1981, became annual events — "the Club 47 series" — mixing established stars such as Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Joan Baez and Richie Havens and newcomers Nanci Griffith, Alison Krauss, Shawn Colvin, and Mark O'Connor. Some of the concerts were broadcast by NPR and PBS. Rush took the show on the road, selling out Carnegie Hall, Washington's Smithsonian Institute
and Kennedy Center, and many other prestigious venues. Relocating to New Hampshire in 2008 after stints in California and Wyoming, Rush recorded What I Know, his first studio album in 35 years, for the independent Appleseed label; the CD was named 2009 Folk Album of the Year by the International Folk Alliance of industry professionals. Voices was preceded by 2013's live all-star concert CD/DVD recording, Tom Rush Celebrates 50 Years of Music, which featured David
Bromberg, Jonathan Edwards and others.