July 05, 2006

In A Black Cadillac With Rosanne Cash

As a child, Rosanne Cash thought she'd grow up to be a writer. She'd been singing for 10 years before she finally realized she wanted to be a singer. Music had been an integral part of her life from the beginning, of course: her father was the singer songwriter Johnny Cash and her stepmom was the songstress June Carter.

Cash has been performing for 25 years, and had made many excellent albums including Seven Year Ache (1981), Interiors (1990), 10 Song Demo (1996) and Rules of Travel (2003).

But the praise for her recent album Black Cadillac, has made it her most well-received work yet with the accolades rolling in from Rolling Stone, The London Times and many other publications. Newsweek said it was "the best album she's ever made."

Cash will be performing live one night only on Friday at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, where she will kick off her U.S. tour.

"The title, Black Cadillac is a metaphor for death itself," Cash explained. "My parents always owned black Cadillacs and it was an iconic image in the metaphor."

The thick emotions of loss and grief were the driving forces behind Cash's latest album. She was unexpectedly catapulted into the arena of introspection by the death of her mother Vivian Liberto, the first wife of Johnny Cash, her father, and stepmother, June Carter Cash, all who died within a two-year period.

Her search to understand death and dying is exemplified in the 5th track "God is in The Roses (and the thorns)". The sweet remembrance stirred by sorrow echoes throughout the album, as a daughter who's become a parent herself begins to live her life upheld by the trinity of love from her parents and stepmother, which has become a guiding force of strength and courage as she presses forward in a life without them.

The album is a rebirth from the ashes of death. "The record came out of that loss. And it made me more confident and relentless in a way," Cash said. "You become more of who you are when you suffer a great loss with dignity. Black Cadillac is not [that different] from the rest of my work and my life. It's still me and my work . . . just a deeper level."

When it comes to her father's music, "My favorite depends on what day it is. Some days I identify with him as a songwriter, and some as a man," she said. "I think 'Big River' is one of his greatest songs and one I really admire." In 1979, Cash recorded it on her album, Right or Wrong. It seems she has not only inherited the gift of music, but also the vein of truth and darkness that is apparent in her father's music.

Walk the Line, a film released last year about her father's life, which recently won several Oscars, was privately screened for her before the release. "The film wasn't made for me and my family and it can't possibly reflect me or my family. It was a Hollywood movie. By that definition, one dimensional," Cash commented.

With her own music, Cash derives inspiration from everything. "I'm always looking for inspiration . . . sometimes it's things small and mundane or large. I don't get it from television," she scoffed, "but everything else is fair game." Her personal taste in music is broad -- she listens to everything from jazz and Southern Gospel to alternative rock and classical. "I love all music and don't set limits on what type of music I listen to," she said.

Her favorite cut off Black Cadillac is "The World Unseen."

"It is very important to me, for it is a microcosm of the rest of the record for me," she noted. Cash worked with two producers on this record including her husband, longtime co-producer and co-writer, John Leventhal and Bill Bottrell, who has worked with Sheryl Crow.

Cash's life and music recently received a big screen treatment of its own. She was the subject of filmmaker Steve Lippman's short documentary Mariners and Musicians, which recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film has been shown during her tour across the U.K. She also toured the Czech Republic, Prague and Paris.

From Westhampton Beach, Cash will be taking the tour across the U.S. to California and on to Canada, and isn't scheduled to perform in the Hamptons area again, though she is no stranger here -- Cash spends part of every summer in Amagansett, where her whaling ancestors shipwrecked in 1853.

For more information and tickets, call the WHBPAC at 288-1500.

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