Wednesday, April 16, 2014

what's the temperature, darling?

As with the Neil Finn show last week, a ticket to see Rosanne Cash happened to flow my way. Thanks to Denise for extending the invitation to check out this gig, my first at San Francisco's sparkling new jazz center.

Rosanne Cash, SFJazz Center, April 10, 2014: If I could go back in time and talk to my younger self -- honestly, I probably wouldn't do it. We all need to make our own, dumb decisions. Besides, I'm not sure I'd listen to a middle-aged lady prattle on about NPR and so-called Americana and the '80s (and '90s!) coming back in style. You're not the boss of me!

But the truth is times (kind of) change and tastes (sometimes) shift, and I don't respond to the same sounds I used to. In fact, I've come around on some artists. I freely admit that the Cash and Carter family prestige held little appeal to me growing up, but I appreciate them now, and I see the long shadow they've cast on my favorite current artists. Of course, the music is top-notch too, as even a dummy like me has come to realize.

As widely reported, Rosanne Cash and her band performed the new album The River & the Thread in sequence, took a break, then returned for selections from the rest of her discography. Sprinkled between the songs, she told stories about her family, her upbringing, and her milieu, all of which inspired the tunes on the new record.

I imagine the banter won't change much over the course of the tour, but the stories are finely wrought and well told, and I can't help touching on some of my favorites anecdotes, starting with the spark for "Etta's Tune": the daily morning exchange between her father's bass player and his wife of 65 years before he passed away. Rosanne proudly pointed out she and her husband have written the only song mentioning both Memphis and Barcelona -- a feat not even Bob Dylan can claim. And I loved that she readily admitted to turning to the Internet when she needed to confirm some details for a song about Mobile, Alabama -- a city she had never visited. Talented singer/songwriters -- they're just like us!

Except that they aren't -- for example, when your ex-husband and fellow singer/songwriter writes the lyrics to accompany a melody written by your current husband/band leader for a song that happens to be about your Civil War-era ancestors. Just another day in the neighborhood, right? Have I mentioned she and her band sounded great too?

The second half of the show drew from several points in Rosanne's career, but as an NPR listener, I mostly recall tracks from The List, her acclaimed record from a few years back. The Hank Snow tune was a highlight, and drawing on her storyteller roots, Rosanne told a fantastic story about the Tallahatchie Bridge, Bill Clinton, and to tie it together, a performance of "Ode to Billie Joe."

As a music fan, I tend to shy away from adult shows in adult venues (music-wise, that is), but they can be done right, as demonstrated by Rosanne Cash and the SFJazz Center.

No comments: