Traveling troubadour returns to Frederick -- Gazette.Net


Not many folk and blues singers who started out in the 1960s are still touring. Tom Rush is one of them.

“They show up,” laughs Rush about his audiences, including those he will entertain in Maryland this week.

Singing solo and playing his acoustic guitar, Rush will perform Saturday at the Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick.

Before that, he will be at the Mainstay in Rock Hall on Thursday and at the Rams Head in Annapolis on Friday.

“I play at the Rams Head every year,” says Rush, who is known for his storytelling, resonant baritone voice and droll wit.

Rush also is a presence on YouTube with “The Remember Song,” by Steve Walter, which takes a laugh-out-loud look at the onslaught of forgetting things as you get older.

“It’s had over six million plays,” says Rush, who expects he will sing the song at the Weinberg.

“It depends on the audience — there’s sort of an ebb and flow,” he says about their preferences.

Rush also expects to sing some new songs he’s working on for a Dec. 28 show at Symphony Hall in Boston, marking 50 years of performing around the country.

The show is a renewal of his Club 247 concert series featuring folk artists that toured to places like the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall in years past.

At the Weinberg, Rush says he also will pull from his pool of hits that includes songs like “No Regrets,” “The Circle Game,” “Urge for Going,” “Ladies Love Outlaw” and “Child’s Song.”

Rush also released an album in 2009 called “What I Know,” with harmonies by Emmylou Harris and Nanci Griffith.

Originally from Portsmouth, N.H., and now living in central Vermont, Rush says he was forced to take piano lessons as a boy, “a gruesome exercise for everybody,” he laughs with his characteristic humor.

Later, he heard an older cousin play the ukulele, which lead to him learning the guitar.

Rush says he also was influenced by the deep baritone voice of Paul Robeson, who sang “Ol’ Man River” in the movie “Showboat,” and singer/songwriter Josh White, both of whom were civil rights activists.

An English literature major at Harvard University in the early 1960s, Rush started singing publicly at the Club 247 coffee house on Harvard Square (now Club Passim).

“We played for the fun of it, and most of us had no plans to become professionals,” says Rush, who, along with Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, were among the exceptions.

Unlike some who specialized in certain types of songs, Rush says he performed everything from blues and bluegrass to cowboy tunes.

He wrote and sang his own music, but he also sang tunes written by people like Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne and James Taylor.

“I developed a reputation as an interpreter of other people’s songs,” says Rush, who played a role in developing their careers.

Along with Baez, Judy Collins and Taj Mahal, Rush is in a documentary by Todd Kwait called “For the Love of the Music: the Club 247 Folk Revival.” Now on the film festival circuit, the documentary is slated for DVD release in 2013.

Looking back on five decades of writing and performing, Rush marvels at the way the music business has evolved.

He says the old boundaries between genres like pop, jazz, classical and folk have faded away.

And the practice of record companies being the sole marketers of music has crumbled with the accessibility of the Internet.

“If you didn’t have a record deal, you didn’t exist — you were totally invisible,” he says.

“Now, everybody can have their own niche,” he says.

Some of the music today is “grotesque,” he says, but there also are a lot of musicians and singers emerging with talent.

Meanwhile, Rush says that for most of his career, he has stuck with his voice and acoustic guitar, entertaining audiences with his musicianship, humor and an alternative to big, loud concerts pumped up with smoke and lights.

“It’s like being back in the firelight and listening to stories,” he says.