Recording information: The Butcher Shoppe, Nashville, TN.
Photographer: Shoshannah White.
It's not unusual for songwriters to run dry in the latter days of their careers, as they find it harder to come up with fresh ideas than they did in their salad days. Tom Rush is a rare example of this working in reverse. At the height of his career in the '60s, Rush was primarily an interpretive singer, performing either traditional folk numbers or the work of new voices in the folk music community (among them Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, and James Taylor). In fact, Rush was five albums into his recording career before he got around to waxing a song he'd written himself on 1966's Take a Little Walk with Me. But in the year 2018, Rush is not only still performing and recording, he's achieved an unexpected career milestone -- with Voices, he's made an album that features ten fresh original compositions from his pen. (Two traditional numbers, "Elder Green" and "Corina, Corina," are included for good measure.) Just as significantly, Rush's chops as a songwriter here are on a par with his skills as a vocalist, which are impressively agile. At the age of 77, Rush's voice is a bit sandier than it was when he was in his twenties, but the character of his instrument is very much the same, and there's a sparkle in his performances that more than compensates; he may sound a little different, but ultimately he's as good as he's ever been. And there's plenty of life in Rush's songs; "My Best Girl" pays tribute to a wild woman with admirable sass, "How Can She Dance Like That?" covers similar territory with equal strength, "Far Away" is a thoughtful meditation on life and love, "Life Is Fine" is a warm endorsement of the joys of domesticity, and the title cut is a thoughtful celebration of the muse and its place in our lives. Producer Jim Rooney and his band of studio musicians provide ideal accompaniment for Rush, complementing his vocals without drowning them out, and this is that rare album that sounds genuinely autumnal but also strong and enthusiastic. It speaks of experience, but not of faded glories. On Voices, Tom Rush reveals he's found a second wind as a songwriter that's arguably stronger than he's ever experienced before, and as a performer, he's still a master; plenty of artists a third Rush's age would give their eye teeth to make an album as effective as this. ~ Mark Deming
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