Tom Rush

What I Know

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It's hard to believe that What I Know marked the first Tom Rush studio album in 35 years when it was released in early 2009. But it's true -- although he released quite a bit of studio material in the first decade of his career, and has remained active as a touring musician since the mid-'70s, this is the first studio product to emerge since then. "Sounds like he's never been away" is the kind of cliché you hear often when these projects appear, but in Rush's case, it seems more appropriate than it does in most such situations. His vocal style remains the same -- good-natured, friendly, and intimate, with a tinge of weary wistfulness. Thankfully, the production, like Rush himself, is low-key and, though grounded in folk and country music, has full and varied instrumentation. While there are celebrity cameos in the shape of guest harmony vocals by Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, and Bonnie Bramlett on a track apiece, those are sympathetic complementary contributions, not parts roped in to grab attention. The songs are a comfortable mix of Rush originals (only five; he's never been the most prolific writer), the traditional song "Casey Jones," and nine choices of outside material. The most renowned of the other writers being Eliza Gilkyson (who composed "Fall into the Night"), and the most surprising choice of material, the CD-closing "Drift Away," Rush rearranging that '70s soul hit into something suitably folky and reflective. The good-natured riding-into-the twilight feel of this record might guarantee it won't cause any earthquakes, but Rush has never been that kind of artist, and this record is a solid continuation of the mood he's largely followed all his musical life.

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