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Concert Reviews:
Rosanne Cash celebrates her recent past at the Macomb Center
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP -- Rosanne Cash has certainly enjoyed an estimable and accomplished career since she began releasing albums 37 years ago. But there's no denying she's been on a roll since, well, the death of her father, the legendary Johnny Cash, in 2033.

Cash's three most recent albums -- "Black Cadillac," "The List" and last year's "The River & the Thread" -- all took inspiration from her father's passing and his legacy and arguably the best of her career, each receiving Grammy Award nominations and the latter winning three earlier this year. So it's not surprising that Cash's concert Saturday night, Oct. 3, at the Macomb Center For the Performing Arts celebrated those recent accomplishments and a formidable statement of an artist at an inspired creative peak.

The 22-song show's centerpiece, in fact, was "The River & the Thread" in its entirety, and not merely a recitation of a successful album by Cash and her five-piece band -- led by husband and creative partner John Leventhal -- but an enhanced immersion in the work, fleshed out with illuminating between-song commentary and visual images projected behind the group. We learned from Cash about her travels around the South to glean inspiration for the songs, about her family's history in the Great Depression-era Arkansas resettlement community known as "The Sunken Lands" and in the Civil War ("When The Master Calls the Roll").

She also told a humorous tale of wresting the latter away from Leventhal and co-writer Rodney Crowell, Cash's previous husband, who had intended it for fellow singer Emmylou Harris. And "Tell Heaven" she related as "a gospel song we thought agnostics might like."

The album was richly recreated by Cash and company, with Kevin Barry in particular lighting up "World of Strange Design" with his lap steel solo. And that portion of the show culminated with Barry and Leventhal dueling their way through a fiery, extended version of the album-closing "Money Road."

The show's second half was given over primarily to "The List," including Cash's treatments of Hank Snow's "I'm Movin' On" and Ray Price's "Heartaches By the Number." Cash and Leventhal also performed duo renditions of Don Gibson's "Sea of Heartbreak," with Leventhal serving as "the under Boss" in place of Bruce Springsteen from the recorded version and Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billy Joe." Best of all, however, was an unplanned performance of "The World Unseen," a moving paean to her father from "Black Cadillac" that left Cash clearly moved -- but also gave a more poignant context for the rocking cover of Johnny Cash's "Tennessee Flat Top Box" that followed.

Cash also dipped into a couple of her polished older hits -- "Blue Moon With Heartache" and "Seven Year Ache" -- and offered a preview of a stage musical she and Leventhal are writing songs for with the melancholy "Every Day Feels Like a New Goodbye." She was clearly impressed with acoustically fine Macomb Center, and by Saturday's audience; "This is a listening crowd," she said, obviously pleased that "this isn't a ride in Disneyland for you. You're here for the music."

Cash also apologized a couple of times for not performing in the Detroit metro area for awhile, noting that "I can't believe it took me so long to get to you." And anyone there on Saturday night surely left hoping it won't take so long for Cash to get back.



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