Long considered one of the leading lights of the 1960s Folk revival, Tom Rush tends to dismiss that pigeonhole. With a style that embraces Country, Blues, Pop and Rock as emphatically as Folk in all its own quirky permutations, Rush has utilized a singular guitar style, a distinctive physical and literal voice, a finely tuned sense of humor, an irresistible knack for storytelling and, perhaps most importantly, a brilliant capacity for recognizing the greatness of a song, whether an original composition or the work of a fellow songwriter.
This last gift has defined Rush’s career since he began recording and touring (next year will mark the 50th anniversary of his recorded debut, Tom Rush at the Unicorn); Rolling Stone cited Rush as the architect of the singer/songwriter era, evidenced by the legendary songwriters he championed on his earliest albums (1968’s The Circle Game in particular), when he was the veteran and they were fledgling artists at the dawn of their careers, including James Taylor, Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell.
Rush’s influence was not only as an interpreter of other songwriters' material. He also championed his fellow singer/songwriters (including Nanci Griffith, Shawn Colvin, Alison Krauss and Mark O’Connor) as performers, presenting them as show openers and exposing them to his fervent and voluminous fan base, exposure that they rode to unfathomable fame as he shrank away from the rigors of the studio/road grind.
After the release of 1974’s Ladies Love Outlaws, Rush maintained a regular touring schedule but other than the occasional retrospective compilation, live album or import reissue of his studio work, he didn’t release another studio album of new material until 2009’s excellent What I Know. With his 70th birthday approaching next month, Tom Rush’s influence continues to ripple through the singer/songwriter community and he hits the stage with the same impact as when he first enraptured the Folk scene nearly a half century ago. (Proceeds from this local show benefit Sojouner Recovery Services)