Having a dozen or so original songs to make an album has never mattered to Tom Rush nor has the idea of churning out an album every year or two. The iconic '60s folk singer has spread out about 20 originals over the span of 11 studio albums. He once took three and half decades between albums. But now, with "Voices," Rush has dramatically changed those dynamics. It has the most originals of any Rush album, 10 of the dozen are his with 2 covers thrown in, as he tongue-in-cheek admits, to keep his folk singer cred intact. This follows 2009's "What I Know," the one following the 35-year gap.
As with that record, this was recorded in Nashville with producer Jim Rooney, his enduring contemporary from their Club 47 days in Boston. Rooney knows his way around Music City, calling on studio stalwarts Dave Pomeroy, Pat McInerney, Jim Hoke, Al Perkins, Sam Bush, Richard Bennett and others. Add the sweet harmonies of Suzi Ragsdale and Kathy Mattea, a spot for his touring buddy, keyboardist Matt Nakoa, and it was too much for Rush to pass up. As he says in the liners, "I'm picking up the pace. One reason is that working with Jim Rooney and the Nashville studio musicians, who proudly call themselves 'Rooney's Irregulars,' was so much fun I couldn't wait to get back."
Rush is clearly in a happy place with "Far Away," a tribute to his wife, "Come See About Me," My Best Girl," "Heaven Knows (But It Ain't Tellin'") together with tunes like "Life Is Fine" and "How Can She Dance Like That?" On stage, Rush displays a wonderful sense of humor and his goofiness shows through in the children song like wordplay of "If I Never Get Back to Hackensack."
While the players give the album enough twang and roots to move it away from traditional folk, Rush retains the folk idiom in the two cover tunes "Elder Green" and the chestnut "Corina, Corina." His own "Cold River," a running-from-the law vignette also fits well into that mode. He describes his "Going Down to Nashville" as an age-appropriate song and concludes with the title track, essentially messaging that the best songs are in the key of love.
Rush is getting a resurgence of creative energy at age 77 which he explains this way, "It might be some musical equivalent of epicormics branching, where a tree that's stressed or elderly starts putting out shoots in great profusion." Whatever the case, we hear the upbeat Rush with no regrets.