Tom Rush - lead vocals, guitar; Trevor Veitch - lead guitar, vocals; James Rolliston - bass, vocals; Richard Patterson - drums, percussion
According to Rolling Stone magazine, Tom Rush was the prototypical singer-songwriter when he burst onto the greater-Boston coffee-house scene in the early 60s. Rush's distinctive guitar style, wry humor, and expressive voice have made him a legend. Rush began performing in 1961 while attending Harvard University. A regular at Cambridge's Club 47, he helped shape the folk revival in the 1960s with his versions of Lowland Scots and Appalachian folk songs, terrific story telling, and a passion for the blues. Although never a prolific songwriter himself, Rush has long championed emerging artists. His early recordings introduced the world to the songwriting of Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, and many other notables, helping them to gain recognition early in their careers. Rush exhibited an uncanny knack for finding timeless songs, and writing his own, many of which have become classics re-interpreted by new generations. In the early 1970s, Rush began embracing electric instrumentation, forming his own band and touring extensively. Endless promotional tours, interviews, television appearances, and recording sessions eventually became exhausting and Rush went into retirement on his New Hampshire farm for the remainder of the decade. He returned in the early 1980s fully recharged, and continued a successful performing and recording schedule that endures to the present day.
In 1972, during the era that yielded this performance, Rush had just recorded his Merrimack County album (named after his home turf) for Columbia Records. Rush was in terrific form on this recording. His singing and acoustic guitar work on this album was among the finest he ever recorded. Containing primarily originals, rather than the interpretations of contemporary folk songs and traditional standards that he had made his name with, this album captured Rush fully embracing folk-rock and country-rock territory. Fans of that album will find much to enjoy here, as nearly half of this set focuses on the new Merrimack County material, with the remainder containing classic songs from earlier in his career, now fleshed out with a terrific band.
The set begins with a track from his 1970 album Wrong End Of The Rainbow. A high-energy country-rocker, "Rotunda" (a song co-written with his lead guitarist, Trevor Veitch) immediately confirms that Rush and the band to be in fine form. Rush's classic interpretation of Joni Mitchell's "Urge For Going" is up next. His rich voice and acoustic guitar work is at the forefront here, and it is to his credit that he recognized this song back in 1968, when few had ever heard of Joni Mitchell. Digging way back in his catalogue, Rush next delivers "Who Do You Love," originally recorded back in his early days on the Elektra album Take A Little Walk With Me. Here Rush and the band prove that they are quite capable of rocking out. A fine reading of David Whiffen's "Drivin' Wheel" follows before Rush treats the audience to three new songs from Merrimack County. This trio of songs begins with "Wind On The Water," one of the most beautiful songs Rush ever recorded, followed by Eric Kaz's "Mother Earth," and the swinging country rocker "Mink Julep."
The most outstanding performance of this set follows, with a medley of "No Regrets" and "Rockport Sunday," two classic tracks from his 1968 album The Circle Game. The former has been a staple of Rush's sets ever since and has had several reinterpretations by Rush himself. The latter is a lovely instrumental that showcases the instrumental abilities of this group in a most positive light. Clocking in at over 8 minutes, this is an intoxicating performance that is sure to delight longtime fans and newcomers alike. The set is capped off with another Merrimack County track, "Kids These Days," which, although incomplete, shows Rush's humorous side within the context of a bluesy rocking groove.
This set is a fine example of Tom Rush during one of the most impressive eras of his career. These performances have a timeless quality that endures. When listening, one can recognize Rush's stamp on subsequent generations, including much higher profile artists such as James Taylor and Garth Brooks. Although Tom Rush is relegated to the history books as a 1960s folksinger, he was always much more, and his impact on the American music scene has been profound.