Tom Rush Readies ‘Voices,’ First Album Of Originals, Out April 27th On Appleseed

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PopMatters premiered a track: http://bit.ly/2FeVfjF

Over the course of his 50-year-plus career, one of Tom Rushs 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 Brookshave 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.