Tom Rush

Merrimack County

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Tom Rush screwed up. He sent this Vimeo link in his weekly Patreon missive, which means you can see it until he takes it down, not that I’d advise him to.

Patreon is good if you’re not looking to grow, if you want to service your hard core audience, which can’t get enough of you and is willing to support you. As for growth, Tom just turned 80, fifty years ago we thought you’d be dead by then, but now Ringo is 80, and McCartney is on the verge, and once when I asked Tom about getting older, what it all means, what choices you should make, he told me you’ve got no choice but to keep doing what you do, in his case making music.

I can’t say it felt like a July 4th weekend to me. I didn’t go anywhere, I didn’t see anybody, on Thursday I’m getting another blood test to see if I’ve got any B-cells, if so, I can get the vaccine again. The yin and the yang are…my skin is really good, which would tend to indicate I don’t have many B-cells, but I’ll see.

Anyway, by time I hit Friday afternoon I’m burnt, I recede, you see I lead a double life, one of business person and one of writer. Most people sit in front of the computer all day long, fielding e-mail, they jump from phone call to phone call, but if I do that I can’t write, and first and foremost I’m a writer. During the week I’m always anxious someone is going to be looking for me, something important is happening, so I can’t really relax and get into the groove of writing until about 11 PM, when I’m calm and relaxed and the ideas start to flow, in between the window of e-mail from the U.S. and the rest of the world. But if I write then I don’t get to sleep until the wee hours, and if I do I don’t sleep well, the next day is sacrificed. Hell, I wrote the other day and was fried for hours and hours even though it was just a list of Don Henley’s music. And it’s constantly frustrating, writing is about zing, the little something extra the audience resonates with, and you can only get that when you’re inspired, which for me happens mostly late at night.

But this afternoon…

I just went through a hundred plus e-mails, I save the important ones for last, and when I finally addressed the one from Tom I saw he was singing “Merrimack County,” which I wanted to hear, not that I expected to be…

Taken away.

That’s the experience, when you hear a record and you’re released, set free from the real world. You’re just ambling along, thinking about your troubles, what you’ve got to do, what you don’t want to do, and then a song starts to play and that all fades away.

That’s why I go to the show. Others go to hang out, feel part of the crowd, to party, but never me, I want to commune with the music, connect with the band, levitate even though I’m sitting in a seat, and I’ve always preferred sitting, giving the music respect, standing you’re always worried about getting tired, jockeying for position, music is best when you’re relaxed and open.


“Way up north by the icebound ocean
I was born I was born
Way up north in the Merrimack county
That’s my home that’s my home”

I wasn’t born way up north, but that’s where my heart is, in the country. I love the city, for the anonymity, the availability of everything, but there’s a freedom in the country, it’s just you and the land, you don’t feel like you’re in a Dodgem, it’s just you, the landscape and your thoughts, you’re still, but you’re fully alive. I know the feeling, but I can’t always get there, Tom Rush brought me there today.

All of a sudden everything fell away, it was just me and the music, the feeling, and I haven’t had that feeling for so long. You know, the feeling where you’re at a show and the music is more important than the badge of honor of being there, when your whole life is set in relief.

Now the truth is “Merrimack County” wasn’t a hit even when it was released back in 1970, the folk/troubadour sound was then at its peak, but it never goes completely away, it’s the essence, just a guitar and a voice, that’s all you really need, and if you can make it that way, you can make it any day anywhere.

You think you’ve lost yourself, you’re far away from your roots, and then you hear a song and you’re right back where you belong, comfortable, you’re in touch with your identity, you’re the same as you ever were and it feels good, because in truth we live alone in our own minds and the key is to feel comfortable there, and it’s music that calms us, makes us feel rooted and powerful in our identity.

Who even knows if I’ll get back to Merrimack County. But it’s not the place, but a state of mind, and every once in a while you’re brought right back to where you belong when you least expect it and it feels so good, it’s precious but you want to tell everybody about it, like today, when I heard Tom Rush perform “Merrimack County.”

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