A spare Cash excells
Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., June 20, 1996
SOMERVILLE, MA - Rosanne Cash has never been one to necessarily stand by her pedigree.
Yes, she may be the daughter of the man in black and supposedly had to learn 100 essential country song to satisfy him, but that doesn't mean she had to walk the line.
Cash's recent, fine new disc, "10 Song Demo," clearly is evidence of that. Despite eschewing - to some extent anyway - her roots of country and Nashville, Cash circa 1996 is far more of a singer/songwriter than any other style.
But during an 80-minute show, Cash showed a generally spare side with far stronger country influences than on disc in what was a most winning show.
Cash played a number of songs from her introspective new disc, which really was recorded as a demo with which Capitol decided to put on the silver platter. Cash played a healthy number of songs with highlights being "The Summer I Read Collette," about a present Cash gave herself in the form of a two-week trip to Paris, and the lead-off "I Want to Know."
But Cash also didn't forget her past. She played heavily from "The Wheel," a 1993 disc often looking at the breakup of her marriage to fellow singer Rodney Crowell. In "Roses in the Fire," one of the best songs all night, Cash sang, "I throw your roses in the fire/To make the flames a little higher/I watch your roses turn to dust/I know no man that I can trust."
And she also tossed in "Runaway Train" and "Seven Year Ache" for good effect.
But lest an evening of dour depression reign, Cash maintained a warm stage presence throughout. She joked with the crowd with a few cute one liners to requests, including telling one guy asking her to play "Halfway Home, "You're old buddy."
In introducing, "I Don't Know Why You Don't Want Me," a song co-written with Crowell, Cash lightly recalled it was based on not having a Grammy the previous year. The result was a 1985 Grammy with that song, which she sang with great strength and vitality.
Cash also engaged in often, humorous, easy banter with her lone stage companion, John Leventhal, who also played acoustic and doubles as her husband.
Leventhal was a big plus throughout the show, often giving a tremolo or twang when needed. He generally favored more country flavorings to the songs. To his credit, Leventhal brought the songs to life.
As for Cash's singing, she shows no signs of wear and tear after recently turning 40. She could easily dart from a soft, sincere emotional stance to a harder edge. While saying early on she suffered from laryngitis due to a recent tour to promote her new book of short stories, Cash's vocals were almost always on target.
Cash and Leventhal left the stage appreciating the warm response- certainly well deserved - from the packed crowd. That certainly had nothing to do with who she has been, but what she is still capable of doing today.