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, Troy Record, Nippertown, and The American Blues Scene. He is also a 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.
February 20, 2015
Stunning news: Google has gone into the doctor business! They’ve put up this very folksy page where a woman who works at Google explains that when her son fell off the bed in — wouldn’t you know it — Vermont, she had trouble finding information on line that would tell her whether or not he had a concussion. (“… and I work at Google!” she sputters.) Just as an aside, beds are a fairly new thing in Vermont, just beginning to catch on, and it may have been a matter of faulty design. If he’d just slept on the floor like normal people … but that’s neither here nor there.
The point is that very soon whenever you look up whatever ails you – aching hair, perhaps, or, in the case of some of my contemporaries, phantom hair pain – you will be presented with the Knowledge Graph, an instant compendium of knowledge about your condition that will allow you to quickly misdiagnose yourself without the bother of plowing through all those confusing, unreliable websites from fly-by-night outfits like Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic, and will certainly save you the time, expense and embarrassment of going to an actual doctor, if you could even get in to see one of them these days.
I’m going to contact them and see if, for a fee of course, they could see their way to recommending Tom Rush CDs and DVDs as a remedy for pretty much anything. I’m told, for instance, that the new video documentary ‘Tom Rush – No Regrets’ can make just about anybody feel good. And then there are all those gluten-free, high-fiber heart-healthy CDs to keep you in shape, in our store.
I know full well, meanwhile, what ails me: aching muscles induced by shoveling all the snow that’s been arriving every weekend like clockwork. And I already know the remedy: I’m heading south!
Saturday, February 21st, Eddie’s Attic in Decatur, GA.
Sunday, February 22nd, Clearwater, FL, the Capitol Theater.
Tuesday, February 24th, West Palm Beach, FL, the Kravis Center’s Rinker Playhouse.
And then back to the frozen north!
Friday, February 27th, Salisbury, MA, the Blue Ocean.
Stay warm, stay healthy!
All the best,br>
So Tom let this little diddy leak out via the newsletter shortly before the 2014 Christmas Symphony Hall show. Matt Nakoa, who just happen to be near the studio was invited in to play on this track. Matt is a 2014 Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Winner, and a multi-talented performer, and has been appearing with Tom on stage off and on ever since.
If you want to get on the inside track on special releases and concert schedules be sure to join the newsletter.
WXPN’s Gene Shay, the “Dean of Folk DJ’s” retired from the airwaves after a glorious 50+ year career on Sunday, February 1st. As a tribute, Tom Rush plays a version of “Mole’s Moan,” the song Gene used as the theme to his weekly music show.
Shameless plug: Mole’s Moan appears on the album TOM RUSH Blues, Songs & Ballads, available in the online store.
December 22, 2014
I want to wish you all very happy holidays and a marvelous New Year. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your sticking with me over the years, coming to the shows, listening to the recordings, reading the newsletters. Someone asked me recently when I planned to retire – I don’t think they were hinting or anything. The answer is, as long as I can have fun doing it and you keep showing up, I’ll keep on keeping on.
On a helpful note, if you’re just stuck for that last minute Christmas gift — DON’T buy the Chia Pet!! Just say NO!! I can sincerely say that the upcoming Symphony Hall show on Sunday, the 28th, will be a musical night to remember — some of the best young talent in the world, Red Molly, Grace Kelly, Monica Rizzio — soaring harmonies, hot instrumentals, old and new songs, all in one of the world’s premiere concert halls set up cabaret-style — and tickets are just a mouse-click away. Also, the brand new video documentary on yours truly, “Tom Rush – No Regrets,” is available at the web store AND at the Symphony Box Office. These are so much classier than that Chia pet, and you don’t have to water them!!
And here’s a present for YOU, a secret link to a secret page on YouTube. I premiered this song at last year’s SH show and have been tweaking it since. Hope you enjoy it!
Stay warm, Gang, and thank you, too!It’s that time of year when I thank all the good folks who keep me up and running. Dan Beach keeps the website humming and gets the newsletters out, but also gives me good advice which I actually take most of the time. (When I don’t I usually regret it.) Rob Stegman and Todd Kwait have labored long, hard and to good effect putting together the video documentaryAND producing this Symphony Hall show. Thank you, gentlemen, for all you do. Mr. Tim Burke has kept the vending operation running smoothly for lo, these many years and I greatly appreciate the time and effort he’s put in. Andrea Sabata, Katy Cates, Crandall Rogers and all the jolly crew at Skyline Music, my booking agency, keep me gainfully employed, for which I am eternally grateful.
All the best,br>
Quote of the month:
“No one ever pretended that shopping for anything is a rational experience. If it were, would there be Fluffernutter? Laceless sneakers? Porkpie hats? Would the Chia Pet even exist?”
–– Jeffrey Kluger
Tom joins Anthony Brooks and Lisa Mullins on WBUR Boston and shares his new song “Voices” in promotion for the upcoming Club 47 show at Boston Symphony Hall.
December 11, 2014
I hope the New Englanders among you have survived the nor’easter in style and comfort. Aside from a few leaks in the house we are warm and dry.
But right now there is a red squirrel sitting outside the kitchen window yelling at me. I spend my mornings sitting at the kitchen table, trying to write songs, taking care of this and that, because my office is too piled with stacks of very important documents to be a good work environment.
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So I’m sitting here, lost in thought, trying to figure out what the Muse is trying to tell me, or whether I’m even talking to my Muse. Maybe it’s somebody else’s Muse, whispering to me through the ether. Maybe it’s a wrong number and she’s just trying to order a pizza or something — it’s always so hard to tell. Anyway, this squirrel rouses me from my reverie. He’s sitting on the window ledge, staring at me, looking annoyed and chattering away in a very imperious tone. Seeing that he’s got my attention, he stops his scolding and gives a rather pointed glance toward the birdfeeder. It’s empty. He’s ticked off because the birdfeeder’s empty. He’s accustomed to a better level of service.
I roar at him, giving him my very best “I’m a big hairy monster and I’m going to come out there and gobble you up,” kind of roar. He doesn’t even flinch. I try again, this time actually articulating, “I’m a big hairy monster,” and so forth. He looks at me with this “Give me a break,” kind of look and starts chattering again. “Get lost,” I explained. “You’re a Republican, aren’t you?” he demanded. It sounded like an accusation. Now he was making me mad. “Politics have nothing to do with it,” I said firmly, “this is a bird feeder, not a squirrel feeder. You are a squirrel, not a bird. Case closed.” “I am an American squirrel,” he said haughtily, “900th generation. These birdy friends of yours are mostly aliens. Canadians, for Pete’s sake. Migrants. They’re not even going to stay in the country.”
I was, I admit, somewhat taken aback. “But,” I protested, “they have a long journey. They need my help.” “Ha!” he retorted, “They’re richer than you are. They’re headed for their winter homes in the Caribbean. Do you have a winter home in the Caribbean?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “I didn’t think so. So you’re willing to give handouts to these millionaires who are moving their assets overseas, but not to a hard-working American squirrel who’s down on his luck. Republican!”
“Now you’re making me mad, Red,” I said evenly. “If you don’t back off I’m going to go get the 12 gauge. “Ooooh, the 12 gauge,” he taunted. “A Republican for sure. Arms spending way out of line with your actual needs. A .22 single-shot would be plenty to bully around a poor little innocent squirrel like me, but no, you think you have to impress me with the mighty 12 gauge. Overkill, if you’ll pardon the expression. Deep-seated worries about inadequacy, I’d say.” “Now hold on just a darned minute,” I sputtered, “this is ridiculous. You’re a squirrel. Go get a job – do whatever it is that squirrels do to make a living. You don’t need handouts from me.”
Tom in the studio recording”Voices”
Photo ©2014, Neale Eckstein
He shook his head sadly. “Listen, Tom,” he said, “may I call you Tom? Listen, it was a bad year for pinecones, and the acorns … well, you could call it crop failure. The ecology’s the worst it’s been in generations. I’m not asking for a handout, but I think we should be thinking in terms of a safety net here. Think of it as the rich pitching in to support squirrels, American squirrels, who are less fortunate.”
I asked the Muse if I could get back to her in a few minutes. She said no, she had a bunch of really good ideas but if I was too busy she’d just go give them to Arlo. I shuffled off to get the sunflower seed, thinking that self-loathing in some circumstances is entirely warranted.
I’ve put up another new song on YouTube, just for you, entitled — appropriately enough in this context — “Voices.” I’m very much looking forward to doing this one at Symphony Hall on the 28th with some other voices. This is a secret page – just for folks on the email list.
This will, I hope, be a very romantic evening — candles on the tables, lots of love songs and good company. Bring your honey, bring your buddy. What better holiday gift could there be than an evening of music in one of the world’s premier concert halls? (And don’t forget the newvideo documentary – a perfect companion gift!) Am I being too subtle, I wonder?
Some upcoming radio appearances are listed below. Stay warm, stay dry, and thanks for reading!
All the best,br>
Quote of the month: “You can’t be friends with a squirrel! A squirrel is just a rat with a cuter outfit.” – Sarah Jessica Parker
Upcoming radio shows:
Sunday, Dec 14, 6 pm – New Hampshire Public Radio – Kate McNally’s Folk Show
Tuesday, Dec 16, 1:15 pm – WMBR (Boston) 88.1 fm – Lost and Found with Eli Polansky
Wednesday, Dec 17, 3:30 pm – WBUR (Boston) 90.9 fm
December 5, 2014
At a big box store recently I saw that, along with the usual birdfeeders on display, they had a deer-feeder for sale. It was a large contraption that dispensed kernels of dried corn. “Well, isn’t that sweet?” I thought, skipping over the question of whether we maybe have enough deer already, perhaps even a surfeit by some reckonings. Then, upon closer inspection, I saw that this warm and cuddly contraption was made by the Remington Company, and that the feed bags were from a brand named “Record Rack.” I can tell you – I was disillusioned. Next they’re going to be telling me there is no Santa Claus and trying to sell me reindeer venison!
Tom And Matt Nakoa in the studio recording a “secret” YouTube song – December 3, 2014
Photo ©2014, Neale Eckstein
The Symphony Hall show is moving along well – I’m working with the other artists on possible collaborations. I’ve got some new songs to play for you and, in order to share them with my guests (Red Molly, Grace Kelly and Monica Rizzio) and the house band I went into a studio yesterday and did simple recordings – just me and a young keyboardist named Matt Nakoa, who happened to be in the building and volunteered his services. I’m putting up one of the songs on a secret YouTube page, for your listening pleasure. You can ONLY get there with this link: http://youtu.be/lVDkGd41Oc0. This is a song called “Life Is Fine,” and I can’t wait to hear it with Red Molly’s harmonies and Monica Rizzio’s fiddle!
In other news, the video documentary is flying off the shelves at TomRush.com – Christmas is just around the corner, after all! We’ve now set up a deal at the Symphony Hall box office so you can buy the DVD there along with tickets to the show.This may, by the way, be the last of these Symphony Hall shows for a while. For reasons having to do with the Hall’s logistics, the 28th is the only date that works. This year it’s a Sunday, but next year it’s a Monday, then a Tuesday, and so forth – so we may be on hiatus for a few years.
And I’m going to be on the radio a bunch in the coming weeks, fanning the flames, beating the drum, sometimes both at once. A list of those appearances is below. A lot of these stations also stream live, so you may well be able to listen in from Topeka, or Barcelona, San Quentin – or wherever you happen to be.
Upcoming shows this weekend:
Friday, 12/5, One Longfellow Square, Portland, ME (guitar wizard Eric Lilljequist will be backing me up, and I’m told a certain Jonathan Edwards might be stopping by).
Saturday, 12/6, The Bull Run in Shirley, MA, my annual get-together with Dean Adrien and the aforementioned Eric Lilljequist.
Sunday, 12/7, The Flying Goose in New London, NH, 2 shows, 3 and 8PM, both sold out, but it might be worth a call. In my experience “Sold Out” is a bit of a squishy concept.
Gotta get back to filling the birdfeeders. Thanks for reading!
All the best,br>
Quote of the month:
“I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it’s such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her.”
–– Ellen DeGeneres
Upcoming radio shows:
Thur Dec 11 – 1pm – WGBH Boston Public Radio with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan