BWW Review: FirstWorks Presents Iconic ROSANNE CASH at The Vets
FirstWorks has been connecting Rhode Island residents with artistic experiencesof all kinds for more than a decade. Their previous Providence International Arts Festival, just one example of their diverse programming, has been rebranded as PVDFest and looks to be even more spectacular this summer. They have also brought a series of incredibly diverse and stunning performances to the stage at The Vets in their Artistic Icons Series, which culminated with an incredible and incredibly moving performance by country singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash.
Cash is the eldest daughter of the legendary Johnny Cash and inherited, it appears, all of his musical talent. In her highly successful career as a singer and songwriter, she has released thirteen studio albums which have garnered numerous Grammy Award nominations and wins. Along with her albums, live performances and worldwide tour appearances, Cash has also written several books and has received a number of honors, such as recently being the Artist in Residence at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
During her concert this past weekend, Cash took the audience on a tour of her newest album, The River & the Thread, which she sang all the way through, in order. It was a moving and gorgeous selection of songs, brought to life perfectly by Cash's silky-smooth, deeply resonant voice. Whether she's singing country, folk, blues or rock 'n roll, she effortlessly uses that voice to reach out and not just touch every audience member, but dig deep into their soul, moving them with each word and note as it lands on their heart.
Making the journey through her album even better was the personal and moving stories she told before each song. The album's genesis was in the trips she took to the south as well as her own family's history there. "The Sunken Lands," for example was dedicated to her grandmother and told the story of a place where her father grew up. "When the Master Calls the Roll" was inspired by her own family's Civil War history. And "Etta's Tune" related to Marshall Grant, a bassist who played with her father and was, with his wife Etta, a close friend of the family. While the songs are influenced by those people of her past, including her father, they are not about those people. They are songs about Rosanne Cash's own life, journey, and experiences in the south and how those experiences have impacted her and, through her music, impact us.
As Cash shared those songs and experiences, she proved to be a wonderfully easy going, down to earth and approachable personality, always gracious and grateful for the audience's adoration. She told her personal stories with absolute sincerity and often with a wry smile and a healthy dose of witty or good-natured humor. One great moment saw her joke with an audience member who claimed to be from Mobile, Alabama, when she at first said that she didn't believe him. She has a charisma and ease about her, whether she's joshing with audience members or bringing them to tears with a heartbreaking rendition of a song.
After Cash completed the spectacular journey through her new album's songs, she and her band took a break, after which they played a selection of other songs, both covers and her own. Leading the five-person band was John Leventhal, Cash's husband who co-wrote a number of songs with her. The two of them have a fantastic chemistry on stage, both musically and when they are kidding around with one another. A sequence of songs sung by Cash accompanied by Leventhal alone on guitar was one of the show's many highlights. It's easy to see why the two of them work so well together. Apparently, it's not every night of the tour that features the full band and Providence's audience was lucky to get the entire group of supremely talented musicians.
Cash, Leventhal and their band demonstrated throughout the show that their talent isn't limited to just one genre or style of music. From the fast-paced country of "Tennessee Flat Top Box" to the gospel of "Tell Heaven" (a "gospel song even agnostics might like," she joked) to powerful ballads like "500 Miles" and "Blue Moon with Heartache," and everything in between, they pulled it off perfectly. While the songs were widely varied, from country to folk to rock and back, the performance had an intimate feel to it, as if it was all happening in a much smaller, more personal venue. And Cash's heartfelt, emotional performance gave the audience a touching and powerful evening of songs that will likely linger in their minds and hearts for some time.
For more information on FirstWorks, their upcoming programming and this summer's PVDFest, visit the organization's website at www.first-works.org. For more information on Rosanne Cash, her tour dates, music and much more, visit her official website at www.rosannecash.com.
Pictured: Rosanne Cash