Tom Rush began his career in the early 60s as a folk-blues revivalist on the Boston coffeehouse circuit, but by '65 he was already working in the studio with rockers like bassist Felix Pappalardi and guitarist Al Kooper. His 1968 album The Circle Game (Elektra) featured definitive versions of two Joni Mitchell songs ("Urge for Going" and the title track), along with tunes by James Taylor, Jackson Browne, and Rush himself--it's been hailed as the opening salvo of the singer-songwriter movement. No Regrets (Columbia), issued in 1999, provides an illuminating (if somewhat cursory) overview of his career. Rush's vocal signature, a snaky ascent from a growling baritone to a midregister croon, made itself evident early on--you can hear it on his earnestly labored 1963 re-creation of Leroy Carr's "Mobile-Texas Line"--but it wasn't until a few years later that he really found his musical identity. On his understated rendition of Eric Von Schmidt's "Joshua Gone Barbados," recorded in 1966, he achieved the subtly textured meld of sadness and optimism he'd continue to refine over the next three decades. "Ladies Love Outlaws," from 1974, finds him in Waylon Jennings drag, playfully tweaking the theatrical romanticism of C and W machismo; "The Dreamer," recorded live in 1981, features some of his most evocative lyrics ("The moon, she rides the tattered storm on a ragged gypsy journey / The snow lies on the mountain like a cloak upon a king"), as well as some shimmering folk-jazz guitar. Rush may have begun his career by struggling against the restrictions of folkie authenticity, but over the years he's become a one-man folk tradition of sorts, remaining true to a sound that's changed little since he first codified it. Saturday, March 8, 7:30 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Benjamin Rush.