I guess I love Rosanne Cash because she’s a world traveler. I also love her quiet integrity. I first saw her live at a summer music festival in Calgary, Alberta, many years ago on a very cold, wet summer night. I most recently saw her at the Krannert Center on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on September 13, 2014, in a performance during which she did an unusual thing. Before intermission, she sang all 11 songs from The River and The Thread, her latest CD, each preceded by witty, deeply personal comments about them. My favorite lyric is the story of my life, “It’s a hard road, but it fits your shoes.”
Roasanne has been very busy. I highly recommend Composed, which is not a song but her excellent 2010 memoir/autobiography. In it she talked about what it was like to gain maturity and make her own way as the daughter of a music legend, Johnny Cash. As she told Elizabeth Quill in Smithsonian magazine (a November, 2014 article), “Her job…is not to maintain the Johnny Cash legacy; it’s to write and sing her own songs.” Her career actually got underway in Germany, not Nashville, and she lives in New York City.
“I went to Barcelona on the midnight train. I walked the streets of Paris in the pouring rain….And I ended up in Memphis, Tennessee,” she sings on “Modern Blue”, one of the 11 songs she wrote the lyrics to on The River & The Thread. Her husband, John Leventhal, composed the music. I assume these words refer to the series of trips they took together that resulted in both The River and The Thread and the restoration of her father’s childhood home. On one trip they journeyed from Memphis to Oxford, Mississippi, where they toured William Faulkner’s home Rowan Oak (see 2013 blog Mississippi’s Yoknapatawpha County) and went on to Money where she and John threw a guitar pick off the Tallahatchie Bridge and John took the cell phone photo of Rosanne that became the cover of The River and The Thread.
Several trips were necessary when Rosanne and the Cash family became involved in the restoration of Johnny Cash’s childhood home in Dyess. Listed by an Arkansas historic preservation group as highly endangered in 2006, it was bought by Arkansas State University in 2011, and the family agreed to help raise funds to restore it. Four music festivals later, it opened to the public on August 16, 2014. Rosanne was at the grand opening one month before I saw her perform in Illinois. I didn’t know that until today.
I also didn’t know until today that The River and The Thread was nominated for 3 Grammies on December 8, 2014. Rosanne’s previous CD, The List (sensational), only received 2 nominations. I predict The River and The Thread will win all 3. “The river rises…she sails away.”