"LATE NIGHT RADIO" picks up where Tom Rush's last album, "New Year," left off. Once again Rush is performing in concert at Boston's Symphony Hall, sharing the stage with a small, select circle of friends. And though the cast, which includes Steve Goodman, Mimi Farina, Buskin and Batteau and Beverly Rush, is different this time around, the results are pretty much the same.
Granted, not everything here works as well on vinyl as it obviously does in concert, but the best performances handsomely display Rush's pleasing tenor, and effortlessly convey a warm, communal spirit.
Rush has always kept good company when it comes to songwriters and musicians, and this album is no exception. Eric Von Schmidt's "Blow, Whistle Blow," Jackson Browne's "Jamaica, Say You Will" and Eddie Holstein's "Jazzman," arguably the best song Rush has recorded in years, are sung and arranged so sensitively that it's easy to forget this is a live recording at times.
Rush's guests have their moments as well, though Buskin and Batteau's nostalgic ode to Annette Funicello quickly wears thin after a listen or two. Far more worthy and memorable are Farina's deeply affecting version of "Swallow Song," Beverly Rush's quiet celebration, "Old New England," and Goodman's classic "City of New Orleans."
Rush will appear Saturday night at the Kennedy Center, and among his guests will be Nanci Griffith, a singer and songwriter who, to judge by her new album, "Once in a Very Blue Moon," truly deserves this kind of concert hall exposure. Griffith doesn't write songs so much as she writes stories that are set to music. (Not surprisingly, she counts Eudora Welty, Larry McMurtry and John Updike among her influences.) Just as one of Griffith's song characters confesses that "I am lost to the fiction of the book in my lap," it's easy to lose yourself in this collection of delicately wrought and beautifully sung narratives.
TOM RUSH -- "Late Night Radio" (Night Light HS 48011);
NANCI GRIFFITH -- "Once in a Very Blue Moon" (Philo PH 1096); both appear Saturday night at the Kennedy Center. (Other performers include Emmylou Harris, Peter Rowan, Mark O'Connor, Buskin and Batteau, Bill Morrissey and Robert Keen).