Backstage during a pre-show photo shoot, John Leventhal jokingly made a funny face when I said that he and Rosanne Cash made a cute couple, but she grinned from ear to ear.
Knowing that their collaboration is both romantic (he is her husband) and musical (he served as producer, arranger and guitarist on her new record) made it extra fun to witness that sweet interaction.
Rosanne Cash is about to release her first album of original material in eight years, “The River & The Thread”.
With just a guitar and lot of stories, she treated an intimate group of KCRW fans to a live performance of new songs at Apogee Studio, with John playing by her side (and legendary mixer Bob Clearmountain behind the board).
There were a lot of laughs as she explained where her inspiration came from. She introduced the second track “The Sunken Lands” by saying it was written with her husband and her ex-husband (Rodney Crowell), a real “modern family” as Leventhal joked.
Her album is rooted in the delta and some songs were sparked by things she saw traveling through the South – “50,000 Watts” was inspired by a radio billboard she spotted that said “50,000 Watts of good will” — and observations on the people in her life and, of course, herself.
“Etta’s Tune” is an ode to Etta and Marshall Grant, who were married for 65 years. The latter being part of her dad Johnny Cash’s original backing duo, the Tennessee Two.
“A Feather’s Not a Bird” is a take on some advice she heard while learning to knit. “Tell Heaven” is the result of the duo deciding they needed a gospel song on the album, but “a secular gospel tune, one even atheists could love.”
The songs are simple, but poetic. And personal, but without any melodrama. This is an album to learn and grow from.
I was most moved by the story behind “The Long Way Home”. Rosanne talked about how when we’re younger, we take a lot of “excursions” to avoid certain things about ourselves. But, as you get older and wiser, you begin to embrace the things you pushed away the hardest, taking the long way home.
There was a great dynamic with the crowd who were so quietly deferential, John joked that they were being too polite.
This fantastic session will air on Morning Becomes Eclectic on Thursday, January 16.
Rosanne Cash Set List
A Feather’s Not a Bird
The Long Way Home
Seven Year Ache