Saturday 18 November 2017

Review - music: Rosanne Cash, Vicar Street, Dublin

Rosanne Cash
Rosanne Cash
Ed Power

Ed Power

Johnny Cash's eldest daughter, Rosanne Cash, has a complicated relationship with her heritage – musical and otherwise.

As a young woman, she struggled to create a life in her father's shadow so much so that she briefly considered taking the name of her mother Vivian Liberto (portrayed, unfairly many believe, as a stony-faced shrew in the 2005 biopic Walk The Line).

Denying her roots felt like running away, she later said, but maybe running was what she needed to do. When she looked in the mirror, all she saw was Johnny's daughter. It took decades for her to think of herself as whole person – and even longer to accept, then embrace her lineage.

Now 58 and a 20-year resident of New York, she has finally returned to the American South, the place that shaped her father and, in ways she has only recently come to realise, shaped her too.

The semi-mythic world of crumbling antebellum manses and haunted bayous is the subject of her remarkable new album, The River and The Thread, which she reprises from beginning to end.

In writing about the South, the temptation is to dispense clichés by the ladle – just as outsiders sentimentalise Ireland, the South creaks under the weight of caricature, to the point where the fantasy can seem more vivid than the reality.

There's certainly something dreamy and dislocated about Cash's musings – 'Tell Heaven' is set in a gothic ruin on the outskirts of Mobil, Alabama, (a city she has never visited); 'The Sunken Lands' contemplates the life of her paternal grandmother Carrie Cash, and the seven kids she raised in the swampy plains of central Arkansas.

Cash has inherited her father's charisma and, with husband (and co-composer ) John Levenathal leading the band, the performance is technically sublime, so that the occasionally kitsch undertow does not trip up the music's sweep and majesty (a resident of the south might have a different opinion).

And while she could be accused of indulgence in playing the LP all the way through, the strength of the writing means you are inclined to applaud her chutzpah rather than roll your eyes.

Besides, she has a singular method of saying 'thank you' for lasting the course as, during the encore, she invites up Paul Brady (a long-time friend) for a duet of Johnny Cash's '40 Shades of Green', followed by psychedelic pied-piper Donovan, with whom she sings 'Catch The Wind'.

This ensures a soaring finale – though, in truth, Cash had the audience captivated from the first note.

Irish Independent

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