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Cash to bring ‘The River & the Thread’ to Freeman Stage

(June 25, 2015) In February, singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash took home three Grammy awards for her highly acclaimed 2014 album “The River & the Thread.”
On Saturday, June 27, Cash will perform the record, in its entirety, at the Freeman Stage at Bayside in Selbyville.  
The inspiration of the “The River & the Thread,” she said, came during a trip to the American Southwest that began with a fundraising stop at Arkansas State University, which had recently purchased the boyhood home of her father, the late Johnny Cash.
“I was going down south to do that and I was going to visit a friend of mine in Alabama, and it just seemed that there were a lot of events that conspired to really rattle us emotionally,” she said. “And we started to write songs.”
“The Sunken Ranch” and “Etta’s Tune,” Cash said, both stemmed from those early writing sessions during the trip.
“We started to say, ‘we could write an album about this,’” she said.
Cash said her writing style has changed vastly over her celebrated career, which began with her first composer credit in 1976 for “Love Has Lost Again,” recorded by her father.
“I think I surrender more than I used to – once inspiration started I would just try to squeeze it to death,” she said. “That doesn’t mean I didn’t write any good songs, I did, but I think I’m more willing to just let go and surrender and find more obtuse language and write third-person narratives rather than having it all be about me.”
Today, Cash said, she blocks off set times to write, rather than waiting to be struck by some sort of nebulous muse.
“I think that’s an incredibly narcissistic way to approach any kind of creative work,” she said. “Like, ‘Oh, I’m just going to wander around and wait until a lightning bolt hits me?’ No, that’s not the way it happens. I think toddlers do that, but serious writers don’t do that.
“I write every day,” Cash continued. “This morning I only wrote for 45 minutes, but then I’ll write later on in the evening. I got a lot done last night, actually. I’m working on, it seems like, five different projects right now.”
One of Cash’s more high-profile current projects is the soundtrack for season two of HBO’s critically adored “True Detective.”
“I wrote the lyrics for three or four [songs] – I’m almost finished with the fourth,” she said. “I don’t know that they’ll all be in it, but T-Bone [Burnett] has been writing the music with a couple of other people. He and I are friends and last year at some point he said – he was so great, he didn’t tell me it was for ‘True Detective,’ he just said, ‘give me the lyrics to a narco-ballad where the lover had a lover who turns into a bird and dies.’ I said, ‘Man, that’s in my wheelhouse!’
“So I sent him the lyrics and he wrote the melody, and we ended up writing four songs that way,” Cash said. “He kept sending me these strange descriptions.”
Cash is also writing songs with husband and long-time collaborator John Leventhal for a project that Leventhal is producing for 75-year-old soul singer William Bell. The couple is also penning music for a new stage play.
“I’ve got a lot going on and I’m happy to be doing this work,” she said. “I’m not anxious to start another record. I’m thrilled to be working on these projects that I’m working on.”
Although Cash has earned scores of high-charting singles and multiple Grammy awards and nominations throughout her career, starting with her self-titled 1978 debut and reaching yet another milestone with “The River & the Thread,” she seems especially proud of current output.
During her acceptance speech at the Grammys this year, Cash invoked Ray Charles, saying, “You’re a better singer at 50 than you are at 30 because your whole life shows up in your voice.” Now 60, Cash said she’s also a better writer today than she was at the beginning of her career.
“I’m about the same guitar player that I was at 30, because I don’t put any time into it,” she said with a laugh. “I know what I know how to do and I just do that. I know I’m never going to be a great guitar player – ever – so why should I put my very limited time on this earth into trying to be a great guitar player when I know I can be a better songwriter and a better singer?”
She’s also listening to and enjoying more music than ever, including seven-piece Birmingham, Ala. soul band St. Paul and The Broken Bones, and 21-year-old Oklahoma songwriter Parker Millsap.
“This strange girl from Scotland send me her record recently, and it was just so odd and beautiful,” she said. “I just love that there are really young people who are so inspired and so soulful.”
At the Freeman Stage, Cash said, she’ll bring the full-band approach towards recreating her latest album for fans. Expect some tracks to resemble the recorded versions, while others will take on a new life in the live setting.
“With the band we do [‘The River & the Thread’] in sequence, which is really, really cool,” she said. “There ends up being this overarching narrative to all the songs, which is how we intended it. And then I go back into my catalogue and do some older stuff.
“Some of [the songs] are very much like the record, like ‘Etta’s Tune’ and ‘Night School,’ because ‘Night School’ is very orchestrated – it’s very particularly arranged, so that is just like the record. Other songs, like ‘Money Road,’ we expand on it, and ‘The Sunken Lands’ is a little more aggressive than the record,” Cash said.
In the immediate future, Cash plans to continue her collaborative streak, although she’s certainly aware that expectations for her next full-length solo release will be unusually high.
“It’s actually making me feel very happy and good that I don’t have to think about what do I do for an encore,” she said. “It’s daunting. I don’t expect to win three Grammys again, but you never know. I’ve been really, really gratified with the response to the record and we knew we were doing good work, but you never know if it will get above the noise.
“I feel lucky that I get to do this at this time in my life,” Cash continued. “I have a lot of people my age who are struggling and find it really hard to be in this business. It’s a really difficult business, and I feel lucky that I’m still getting heard and I have the support of Blue Note Records, one of the great old labels of the world.”
Tickets for Rosanne Cash: The River & The Thread in Concert are $35. For more information 302-436-3015 call or visit