Album Review: Tom Rush, ‘Gardens Old, Flowers New’

It’s a pleasure to have a new Tom Rush album, his first in five years. On Gardens Old, Flowers New Rush treats us to fourteen new songs. The album also celebrates the twenty-fifth anniversary of Appleseed Recordings, the independent label devoted to putting out socially conscious folk and root music.

On the album opener, “Sailing,” bright ringing guitar chords gambol with nimble Dobro runs, swaying accordion notes, and lilting pennywhistle in a spry Celtic-inflected sea shanty that’s an ode to embracing love and not looking back with regret on the past. The propulsive “Glory Road,” a tale of going out into the world and returning home, features soaring harmonies on the song’s chorus, evoking the storyteller’s inner voices calling him back to the place of his origin.

The rollicking acoustic blues track “Gimme Some of It” rides along a traditional blues tune called “Custard Pie,” but Rush and keyboardist Matt Nakoa—who produced the album—with harmonies by Abbie Gardner and Monica Rizzio deliver a joyous handclapping New Orleans juke joint stomper. Crisp fingerpicking cascades through the lilting instrumental “Lullaby in E,” while the stately symphonic “Toy Boat Song” likens the journey of a beloved child through distant travels from home to the journey of a toy boat through tumbling waters and rocky rivulets.

The nautical wheeler “One More Time Around the Sun” celebrates the voyages of mariners as they sail rough seas and pull in and out of ports of rest year after year. The slowly unfolding and poignant ballad “The Harbor” is an ingenious tale of a person who has forgotten much of his life but for whom the harbor is a touchstone and a place where “the waters run free.” “To See My Baby Smile” is a quiet and tender love song that nevertheless acknowledges the ups and downs and losses and regrets embedded in a deep love that overcomes them. The album closes with another raucous New Orleans honky-tonk blues, “I Quit.”

Gardens Old, Flowers New is vintage Tom Rush. His lyrical whimsy and ingenuity captures moments of human vulnerability and celebrates the joys of life and love. Rush has a gift for matching just the right musical notes to evoke the emotions his lyrics embody.


Gardens Old, Flowers New is available HERE


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