Dec 4, 2013
12:19 PM
Arts & Entertainment

Tom Rush, 1960s Godfather of New England Folk Music, Comes to StageOne in Fairfield Dec. 8

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Ben Taylor recently told me he won't even record a song until he's played it for a year.

There's pluses and minuses to that. I would record it right away, and then record it in a year and see what happens. Because there's an energy when something's brand-new—it's like first love—and then you fall into a routine with a song, and you're not as aware of it. There's an energy that goes out of it. You gain some finesse and polish, but sometimes polish is not good. Jim Rooney, my producer on my last studio album What I Know—which I think is my best work—his genius is he has a great system in his brain for detecting that energy. And it doesn't matter if it's perfect. If you make a mistake it doesn't matter, as long as it has that energy that engages the listener. That's more apt to happen with a brand-new song.

Are there any young folk artists on the scene right now that excite you?

There's a whole lot of them, and I actually haven't been paying attention the way I should. But I'm working on another show for Symphony Hall Dec. 28. The people on my email list have got a head start for tickets. I should plug my email list, by the way—I try to keep them entertaining and apparently I've succeeded, because I've got some loyal readers out there. It's a thinly veiled mechanism for selling stuff to people, but it starts out with a story about this or that.

But in putting this show together, so far we've got Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band with Maria Muldaur and Geoff Muldaur, and Patti Larkin will be there. And we'll be auditioning and checking out up-and-comers, There's some really astoundingly talented people out there. Two of my favorites, neither of whom were available for the show, are a young woman named Sara Jarosz—she's quite wonderful—and a young guy named Chris Thile, a mandolin player who does Bach and bluegrass. He's quite astounding in his technique and craftsmanship. [Ed. note: Rush's guests will now include Sarah Lee Guthrie—Arlo's daughter—and Johnny Irion.]

You've performed with Elvis Costello.

Yes, on "Prairie Home Companion." It was fun. Backstage, I told him, "I brought you a copy of my latest studio album," and he said, "Oh! Thank you! I had one at home and meant to bring it for you to sign."

And on your website there's a photo of you hanging with Bono.

We go way back. No, not really. He started doing the chorus to "No Regrets" in his stage shows, as a tag to a song called, "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own." I saw an interview with him where someone asked him, "I see your doing a little bit of 'No Regrets.''' He said, "Oh yeah"—Scott Walker, the genius of the Walker Brothers, had had a huge hit with 'No Regrets' in England, and apparently Bono thought Scott Walker wrote it. So, I figured I had to set that straight. So I went to a show U2 did in Phoenix, when my son and nephew were both at Arizona State in Tempe. I got invited to the afterparty and hung out with the band a little bit. They're very down-to-earth guys; I was impressed that The Edge came down and plunked himself between my kid and my nephew, both with torn jeans and hats on backwards, and actually had a conversation with them. I thought that was cool.

The Walker Brothers' version of "No Regrets" was a huge hit in Britain. It actually ticked me off because it struck me as a note-for-note cop of my recording for Elektra, with the same soaring guitar solos. I wasn't so much annoyed with them as I was with my record company—if they could have a hit, why couldn't I? But the cover version put two kids through college. Then the Walkers did a retrospective album later, that they titled "No Regrets," and that again was a huge hit. And off of the Walker Brothers' recording came a bunch of other covers: Midge Ure of Ultravox did a heavy metal version, which was so ponderous. There was also a hip-hop version. The group had a hit with it and disbanded.

I understand your wife, Renée Askins, is also a writer.

She is. She's written a book, Shadow Mountain, about the 15 years she spent getting wolves restored to Yellowstone Park; she was very central to that successful effort. A bunch of guys had written books about the project, all from a very male perspective, using lots of combat analogies and imagery. Renée's book is from the women's perspective—what did it all really mean and why was it important. She's not encouraging to people who want to have wolves as pets. We were getting lots of mail from people who do. Hybrids are particularly dangerous, because with a worl, at least you know you have a wild animal, and you know how they're wired—they move through the hierarchy by challenging the top dog, so pretty soon your wolf is going to try to take you. And it's very sudden—the animal will be totally lovable and delightful until one day, it'll take your face off. Then the animal is put down, and somebody's kid is hurt. It's a really bad idea. With purebred wolves, it's fairly predictable; with hybrids, you don't know what you got. It's like leaving a loaded gun around the house.

Tom Rush, 1960s Godfather of New England Folk Music, Comes to StageOne in Fairfield Dec. 8

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