On December 28, 2012, Tom Rush celebrated his 50th year as a performer with a sold-out concert at Boston’s Symphony Hall. This 40 minute version featuring selected performances by Tom Rush and his guest performers: Buskin & Batteau, Jonathan Edwards, Dom Flemons and his house band was excerpted from the DVD version, available with a companion CD at tomrush.com. Watch this unforgettable milestone concert available for a limited time only. https://vimeo.com/ondemand/tomrushsymphonyhall
Tom has partnered with Canadian guitar makers MacKenzie & Marr to produce a limited edition recreation of Tom’s classic “Naked Lady” guitar, the original being destroyed in a house fire some 20 years ago. Since then Tom has been looking the right partners to recreate this iconic instrument.
All right, children, gather ‘round and settle down. You’re old enough now, and I think it’s time I told you where concerts come from. You see, when a musician and a concert hall love each other very much …
Actually, it’s even more complicated than that.
One of the questions I get asked a lot is: “Why don’t you ever play in Mytown?” I think folks envision musicians as sort of range-riders, roaming the countryside in search of places to perform. “OK, Stinky, this looks like a good place to camp. You circle the groupies and set up the tent. I got a hankerin’ to be moseyin’ on over to yonder Performing Arts Center and do a show.”
It’s not like that.
The way it works is that the person in charge of such things at the Performing Arts Center (or club, or theater) calls up Andrea Sabata, my agent at Skyline Music, and says they want to hire me. Or sometimes she calls them. They talk over the broad outline of things and then, if it looks promising, she asks me if I’m interested. I usually am because I love doing shows. Andrea then gets back to the buyer and they thrash out the details. This is usually done, by the way, somewhere between six and eighteen months before the show date.
(Andrea spends her working hours getting the ducks in a row, but this is harder than one would think, and when they refuse to line up she ends up juggling ducks. Now, juggling ducks seems to come naturally to her and she’s very good at it, but at the end of the day it wastes her time and, as one would expect, annoys the ducks. )
So … if you would like me to come and play in Yourtown here’s what you do: call the PAC, or club, or theater and ask for whoever schedules the shows; tell them you want them to book Tom Rush and they should call Andrea at Skyline Music If you have to explain what a Tom Rush is that is not a good sign, but don’t despair. Hang up and call back in a few hours using a different voice and modified script. Repeat this process as needed – enlist your friends to do the same – until they finally cave in. It’s like a medieval siege, really, without the battering rams and ladders. Mind you, if you and your three co-conspirators are the only ones who turn up for the show I probably won’t be invited back.
I have to admit I’m feeling guilty about enjoying the weirdly warm weather we’ve been having in New England. I know climactically it’s all wrong, but it sure beats shoveling! We just have to hope it’s not 30 degrees warmer than usual in August.
Grim news: on Monday I’ll be 75 years old. This is of concern because, according to my calculator, that’s the same as 99 Canadian. On the upside, however, it’s just 24 Celsius, so I’ll focus on that.
So I’m sitting here thinking, “Oh, my God — half my life is over! It’s time to take stock of things.” After a few minutes of reflection, I came to the realization that the sum total of my accomplishments could be written with a crayon on a bottle cap, with room to spare. So I’d best get to work finishing up all the half-done projects that are littering the filing cabinets. (In that regard, does anyone know Richard Branson? I’m serious. I have an idea for a very odd project I think he might enjoy.)
If any of you would like to know all about my brief life so far, by the way, you might find the video documentary “No Regrets” both fun and informative. Check it out!
One of the birthday presents I’m giving myself is a quick trip to Florida and Georgia for some shows with Matt Nakoa on board. I don’t think I’ve told you about Matt, but he’s been playing keyboards with me for most of my shows over the past year. He’s a monster, and I mean that in the nicest way. I ask him to do a couple of songs on his own during the course of the evening, and the crowd LOVES him. Maybe a little too much. I might be smart to discontinue that practice. (And, yes, ladies, he’s very cute, or so I’m told.)
Here are a couple of pictures of us on stage. In the second one, Matt is obviously thinking, “OMG and WTF, how can Tom possibly have so much talent and genius!!!” Alternatively, he may be thinking, “Where’s Jack Kevorkian when you really need him?”
In the late Fall of 2014, I had invited a bunch of guest artists to my upcoming holiday show at Boston’s Symphony Hall, and I had a bunch of new songs I wanted them to get to know in case any of them felt like playing or singing along.
We set up the mics and got comfortable. Neale said, “I’ve got this keyboard player staying with me, in case you’d like to add some keyboards.” I said, “Nah.” “He’s really good,” said Neale. “No, thank you, I don’t think so,” said I. Neale stood over my chair, hands on hips (I may be mis-remembering this, but this is what it felt like), and intoned, “He’s really, really good.” Intuitive fellow that I am, I sensed that Neale, who was doing me a favor by letting me use his studio, wanted me to hear this guy. “Ah, OK,” I replied hesitantly, “maybe just one song.”
He then went and woke up Matt Nakoa and dragged him to the basement. He looked to be a very sleepy teenager (he’s actually 30 but you’d never know it), and clearly was unclear as to who this Tom Rush guy was supposed to be. So Neale sat him down and he added a piano track to a song I’d just cut. Damn! Sounded awfully good! We added keyboards to a couple of more tracks and then ended up re-recording the lot of them so Matt could play live with me.
At the end of the session I invited Matt to come to Symphony Hall and be part of the band. He distinguished himself there, and a few months later I asked him if he’d like to join me for a couple of gigs. The upshot is that young Matt has been on board with me for most of my shows over the past year. (He has his own schedule of concerts, and sometimes there’s a conflict.) He backs me up, makes me sound much better than I really am, and does a couple of songs on his own during the evening. The crowd loves him (especially the ladies, because he’s so cute!).
Matt’s on his way to bigger and better things, but I’m sure enjoying working with him while I can. Thank you Neale!
Scattered thoughts seem to be the norm for me these days. A random sampling:
If I’d been commissioner of the NFL, I’d have sentenced Tom Brady & Co. to play one game with a fully deflated, one might say flaccid, football.
I have it on good authority that both Canada and Mexico are working up plans to build border fences to keep out fleeing American liberals in case Trump wins the presidency.
I don’t want to sound anti-immigration or anything, and I don’t even know where Kardashia is, but I wish they’d go back where they came from.
Scientists say that the behavior of subatomic particles changes if you even think about them, causing them to flit in and out of existence. So, what if somebody thought about all of them at once? Wait! Don’t do it! Damn, that was close.
The most fun thing for a puppy is an old guy trying to put on his socks.
In an odd development, I’m selling my own bootleg. Actually, no, this is from the UK and is legal since anything on the radio in the ’70s or ’80s is now in the Public Domain there. This is a show I did at the Wollman Rink in Central Park on August 12, 1972, as part of the Schaefer Music Festival. I’m fronting a kickass band featuring Trevor Veitch, banners snapping in the wind, on lead electric guitar. WARNING: the audio here is pretty rough. Feedback, occasional random bits of conversation from stage-side, a somewhat chaotic mix—this will not be up for any engineering awards. But it has a compelling energy and takes me back to the moment, and to the era. (This is one of the things music does so well.) I scored a few copies, but there’s no way of knowing how long this is going to be in print. If you’re interested, don’t dawdle! Available only in our online store.
Two notes about upcoming shows: I won’t be doing a Symphony Hall show between Christmas and New Year’s this winter–we couldn’t get a date that worked–so these shows listed below are the only area appearances I’ll be doing.
And, to make these shows even more special, I’ll have a young whippersnapper named Matt Nakoa accompanying me on keyboards and harmonies. He’s a monster (and I mean that in the nicest way), an artist on his way up; I’ll likely ask him to do a song or two on his own during the course of the concerts. You will love him, guaranteed.
Friday, 11/6, the Cabot Performing Arts Center in Beverly, MA. The Cabot has just invested a bajillion dollars on a magnificent makeover and is truly, I’m told, a wonder to behold. I can’t wait to behold it!
Saturday, 11/7, the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River, MA, a hallowed old industrial space that I’ve come to love. (I always open the show there with “It’s Going To Get Hot Tonight” so I can include the line, “I left my liver in old Fall River.”
Sunday, 11/8, the River Club Music Hall in Scituate, MA, one of my favorite South Shore stops. This and the Narrows tend to sell out, so, again, don’t dawdle!
If you can’t attend, send a friend.
Enjoy what’s left of the Fall—some nice warm weather coming up in New England and the foliage is still glorious!
All the best,
Quote of the month:
“I am really cautious about what I say and do.” “I always put clothes and family photos under the mattress, in case the house burns down.” “I hate to talk about myself.”
Allegedly this is one of the first music videos ever produced. It was shot on the outskirts of London, where Tom was touring in 1968. It was produced by Arthur Gorson for Elektra Records as a promo for the album The Circle Game. It has been put online by the filmmaker Jonathan Moser.
The magical Gene Shay of 88.5 WXPN Philadelphia has been a friend and supporter of Tom since his earliest days. This show starts with Gene talking about Tom version of “Mole’s Moan” and how it became the staple intro to the show for many decades. Having produced a weekly folk radio show since 1962, this show is part of the buildup toward Gene’s retirement. This program features archival interviews with Tom (at the 37min mark), as well as an 1967 interview with Joni Mitchell and others.
(Concert Review – Schenectady, NY – The Eighth Step at Proctors – May 12, 2015)
By Don Wilcoc
Tom Rush calls himself simply “a generalist,” a self-deprecating understatement that proved way insufficient in defining his sumptuous nearly three-hour, two-set concert at the Eighth Step on May 15th. His tour-de-force performance featured his own signature song “No Regrets” from early in his career as Boston’s best voice of the ’60s folk boom and his career defining “The Circle Game” which introduced Joni Mitchell’s songwriting to the World.
Crisscrossing genres, he re-invigorated Dobby Grey’s pop ode to the palliative properties of music on “Drift Away,” and encored with an energetic acoustic version of “You Do You Love” that somehow managed to inject as much potency into that Bo Diddley rockin’ blues classic as Diddley himself did in the ’50s with his plugged-in rectangular guitar. Rush joked about songwriter Lee Clayton telling him he’d written the outlaw country number “Ladies Love Outlaws” especially for Tom and then postulating that Lee probably said the same thing to Waylon Jennings who had a hit with it.
He’s the best friend you haven’t seen or talked to in 40 years. You greet each other and instantly enter the infinity loop for a continuing connection. That’s what folk music does. It brings everyone into a comfy familiarity around simple shared values. Part of the way most folk acts of the ’60s eliminated the distance between performer and fans was a style – or lack of style – that put the performer and the fan on the same level. Pete Seeger was the master of this. He was by no means a polished singer and having the audience sing along became part of the show. That’s what hootenannies were all about. Tom Rush hones that heritage to a point of near ecstacy.
Watching him breathe new life and meaning into old songs that are part of our collective consciousness from a wide variety of genres, we can easily imagine that he’s Mark Twain addressing us from beyond. His creamy baritone and crystal clear enunciation focus a new light on the lyrics of songs whose originals we’ve reduced to mere melodies we can’t get out of our heads. He even looks like Twain with tousled white hair and curling mustache. His understated reflections between numbers never speak to us or at us, but rather draw us into his view of the world like the avuncular uncle who has just returned to our lives after a long absence. His time away disappears in a conversation left dangling from his last visit decades ago.
History and the media’s reduction of that history to bulleted biographies have niched Rush into a folk singing oldies but goodies act who brought Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Jackson Browne to wider acclaim, but his concert proved that such an evaluation diminishes him unfairly. It’s the same as saying Frank Sinatra did all his best stuff fronting jazz bands in the ’40s or that Johnny Cash’s high water mark was “Ring of Fire.”
Rush’s concert featured “Fall into The Night” by Eliza Gilkyson, a very current Americana singer/songwriter. With a wink, he admitted he’s changed some of her words in the end that are more metaphysical because he’s more focused on the lyrics, “So, baby, take your blue jeans off, and lay your body down.” That number is on his most recent album What I Know, his only studio LP of new songs in 30-some years. He did the title song which he says he wrote as a love song for his wife when he was on tour during her birthday and felt an email photo of a box of chocolates just might not cut it. He also did a couple of new songs that have come during a recent unprecedented run of songwriting.
Don Wilcock is a freelance writer, Senior Editor of The Audiophile Voice Magazine, and a Contributing Writer for The Saratogian, TroyRecord,Nippertown, and The American Blues Scene. He is alsoa Contributing Editor for Blues Music Magazine (formerly Blues Revue Magazine) and a recipient of the The Blues Foundation’s “Keeping The Blues Alive in Print Journalism” Award. Published with permission of the author.
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