The AARP could use more people like Tom Rush. Just a month prior to his 69th birthday, the indefatigable folkie worked his way through his ’60s archives and material on his first studio album in 35 years, often smiling amiably at the aging process.
Rush, who championed Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Shawn Colvin and Alison Krauss when they were unknowns, demonstrated a unique balance at Largo as he alternated between the familiar and the new, intricate guitar-picking and open strumming, the sentimental and the humorous.
His tenor, round and lyrical, remains capable of extending a vocal bear hug; he keeps the twinge of nostalgia at bay, even on the weepers such as Murray McLauchlan’s “Child’s Song” and his own ode to a move to Wyoming, “River Song.”
Tracks from “What I Know,” released early last year by Appleseed, find him unconstrained by his own past or the Boston folk music scene in which he grew up in the early 1960s. He sang of nighttime pleasures on “Hot Tonight” and having to email a Valentine greeting via song on the tender “What I Know” and did a splendid, wistful reading of the Dobie Gray hit “Drift Away.” Evening closed with Rush explaining the songs of his past. Some lack modern relevance, he says, though the key problem is a lack of political correctness. Train songs and stories, though, are safe, and the medley taught to him by the Delta blues guitarist Bukka White in the early 1960s provided an enthralling finale.