Even for an always busy Rosanne Cash, her current activities are especially exhausting.
Tomorrow night she begins Carnegie Hall Perspectives, a curated series of four Carnegie Hall concerts in which she’ll present varied elements of American roots music from traditional bluegrass to country, folk, Western swing and soul music, and featuring top musicians in these fields.
This follows her recently-completed term as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s 2015 artist-in-residence (she was artist-in-residence at the Library of Congress in December, 2013, and last year received the 2014 Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award for the Performing Arts), and on Oct. 8, she was the subject of a Songwriters Hall of Fame Master Sessions at NYU (New York University) conversation with NYU songwriter-in-residence Phil Galdston.
Just last night she performed with Wynton Marsalis at the Lincoln Center Fall Gala, and next month she’ll interview Elvis Costello about his career and newly published memoir Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, then take part in the presentation of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song to Willie Nelson on Nov. 18.
Oh, yes. Cash, who is still touring in support of her Grammy-winning 2014 album The River & the Thread, was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame on Oct. 11, joining her late father Johnny Cash in becoming the only father/daughter inductees in the prestigious hall.
“The Hall of Fame was so thrilling!” says Cash, who lives in New York. “A lot of times I go through things and don’t really take them in and wonder, ‘Maybe I don’t deserve it. Maybe I do,’ but this is one of those nights where I felt the moment. It was something that I’d wanted for decades and felt that I worked for, and it was really moving for me.”
Her “whole history was up there” that night, Cash adds, with ex-husband (and previous Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee) Rodney Crowell inducting her, and her husband, producer and guitarist John Leventhal performing with her friend Emmylou Harris.
“Vince Gill sang [her 1981 signature country hit] ‘Seven Year Ache,’ and it was such a high!” she reports.
Cash’s three Country Music Hall of Fame artist-in-residence shows last month “were really special, too,” she says. “The first show was a band show and we did the whole River & the Thread album in sequence, and some older things—and it was just a great night. The second was just me and Emmylou and Lucinda Williams, and it was a spiritual experience for the three of us: We’ve all been friends forever, but had never done a show together—and we’re all at points of our lives where we don’t feel competitive or insecure. So there was a fullness, there, for all of us.”
Williams, she adds, cried twice during the performance.
“The three of us brought our entire lives to that show,” she explains. “We’ve all suffered losses and shown up for work for decades and decades—and we all love each other and are inspired by each other.”
Then last night’s performance with Marsalis was “unbelievable,” Cash says. “I never thought in my life it would ever happen!”
But she was just as bewildered by the opportunity to put together her Carnegie Hall Perspectives series.
“What a great honor!” she says. “I said, ‘Are you sure? Me? Do you have the right person?’ But I love doing a series on Southern roots music, and spent a lot of time thinking about how best to represent it.”
Tomorrow night’s first installment features Nashville’s premiere Western swing band the Time Jumpers, whose members include Vince Gill and Riders in the Sky’s Ranger Doug. On Nov. 14 she hosts Cooder–White–Skaggs, the principals being Ry Cooder, Sharon White and her husband Ricky Skaggs.
“Ry and I performed [the Johnny Cash classic] ‘Get Rhythm’ at the Americana Music Conference last year and it was really fun, and I said, ‘I’m putting together a series and want you to be part of it.’ He’s so recalcitrant and doesn’t really tour and hedged–and was being really grumpy about it–and then he mentioned that he did a showcase thing with Ricky, and that it was fun! I said, ‘That’s perfect, Ry! People will die.’ So they tried a show and it was like the heavens opened up for Ry—and they started touring together with Sharon singing and [her family band] The Whites in the band. I saw them in Nashville and he said, ‘You know, it’s all your fault!'”
On Jan. 15, 2016, Cash hosts Alabama soul band St. Paul and The Broken Bones, then closes her Perspectives series on Feb. 20 with her own show performing The River & the Thread.
She interviews Costello Nov. 10 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House.
“I’m calling it ‘a conversation’ rather than interview—since I’m not a pro when it comes to interviewing!” she notes. “We’ll talk about his memoir and his work. I’ve been immersed in all things Elvis for the last couple months, and it’s been just fantastic.”
Cash has co-written a song (“April 5th”) with Costello and Kris Kristofferson.
“There’s no one like him,” she says. “The breadth of his musical ability is staggering.”
Meanwhile, Cash, who did three concerts last week, has nine more through the end of the year, then hopes to “slow down.”
“I was talking with [her label head] Don Was about how burnt out we all are, but he said, ‘I can’t think of one thing to complain about—except the hotels!'”
She says that she’s co-written a new song with Sam Phillips that “turned out really well,” and that she and Leventhal are focusing on writing music for a play rather than a follow-up to The River & the Thread.
“It’s a two-year process,” she says, “and these last two years have been really packed—and really good for both of us. We don’t take it for granted.”
“A friend of mine said, ‘You’re going to look back at this year and see how special it was,'” Cash concludes, “so I’m really enjoying how great it is while it’s still happening.”
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