Concert Reviews, Top Stories

Rosanne Cash

Suzi Pratt / May 4, 2010

To See Rating: 8/10
Just Curious Rating: 8/10

UPDATE: You can hear the full Rosanne Cash live concert and special interview with Michele Norris on NPR here, just in time for Mother’s Day.  The hour-long special is available, as well as individual live songs from the show.  

While most of the world is well-acquainted with the music of Johnny Cash, the talents of his eldest daughter Rosanne Cash are lesser known.  Like her father, Cash is a pre-eminent American singer-songwriter whose rich music career spans 30 years and included 12 recorded albums and 11 number-one singles. Additionally, Cash is a published writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and New York Magazine.  In short, Cash has managed to make a name for herself despite at times living in her famous father’s shadow.  On Saturday evening, Cash appeared live at the Moore Theater to perform musical numbers and sit down with NPR correspondent Michele Norris.  The evening unveiled many details about Cash’s personal life, including her relationship with her father, her balancing act of managing her music career and raising five children, and all of the obstacles she has endured to find her voice.

The evening started off with an NPR celebrity video tribute to their mothers, which was a recurring theme since the live session was recorded and is scheduled to air on NPR stations on Mother’s Day weekend.  Host Michele Norris also strayed from her usual All Things Considered programming role to speak about her mother “Off Track Betty,” who lived life on her own terms, and her own 3 children.  It was at times poignant, and other times funny, but all the while very touching, and it set the mood for the rest of the night. Cash made her debut on stage singing 2 songs from her latest album The List, based on the list of “100 Essential Country Songs” crafted specially for her by her father as her American music education. As Cash revealed later in the evening, she still has the original list, which includes everything from Appalachian folk ballads to gospel and Southern blues, but considers it a personal keepsake that will not be made public any time soon.  The rest of Cash’s musical numbers were mainly songs from The List, with the exception of a first-ever collaboration with her daughter Chelsea Crowell and the final song, which is from her album Black Cadillac.  Cash’s husband, John Leventhal, provided live guitar and vocal accompaniment.

As for the conversational piece of the evening, Cash appeared very down-to-earth and at ease as she spoke with Norris.  Speaking first of her own mother, Cash described Vivian Liberto as a Sicilian from Texas, with strong Catholic values that she instilled in her children.  Like most of us, Cash admitted to feeling like she embodies her mother in ways she never imagined, such as in the way she keeps her house and raises her own children.  Regarding Cash’s strategy to being the mother of five while contending with an artistic career, she says the key to it all is realizing that you can’t have it all, and that you have to make choices.  Cash went on to describe her famous father Johnny, who she says worked out all of his pain frustrations on stage in the spotlight, something that Cash herself contended with as she struggled to find ease with performing on stage. Interestingly, Cash got her musical start at the age of 18, when she toured with her father first as a laundry attendant, then becoming one of his backup singers.  Her step mother’s sister Helen Carter, of the Carter family, taught Cash to play the guitar, and for a long while, Cash strove to be a songwriter and never a performer.  Lucky for us, Cash quite literally found her voice, even bouncing back on stage after two years of vocal loss.  Her story is one of resilience, proving that even in a family with rich musical heritage, she is able to shine on her own.  To hear more on Cash, including her full show with Norris, tune into your local NPR station next weekend.

Set List

1. Wheel

2. I’m Movin’ On

3.  Girl From the North Country

4. Sea of Hearbreak

5.  500 Miles

6.  Collaboration with Chelsea Crowell

7. The World Unseen

8. What We Really Want

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