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Johnny Cash’s daughter plays the Englert

BY TOMMY MORGAN JR. | FEBRUARY 10, 2010 7:30 AM

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After singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash paid tribute to her family, including father and country mega-legend Johnny Cash, with the 20-song album Black Cadillac and a subsequent tour, she is now seeking to give homage to all of country music.

Her celebration of the music she has known all her life will come to Iowa City at 7:30 p.m. today as Hancher hosts “An Evening With Rosanne Cash” at the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St. The performance is sold out.

“She’s one of our great living songwriters,” Hancher programming director Jacob Yarrow said, noting that Cash has made “great records that have been with us for a long time.”

When it came time to work on a follow-up to Black Cadillac, which she called a “dense, emotional record,” she wanted to take on a new challenge. She decided to do a covers record — the first of her career.

“I wanted to just be an interpreter and have fun,” the songwriter said.

The resulting album was 2009s The List. The idea and title stemmed from an actual list, given to Cash by her father, of what she said he called 100 essential country songs. For years, Cash didn’t do anything with it.

“I received it at 18,” she said. “I wanted to have it, I was thrilled that he made it for me, but I didn’t realize the importance of it.”

In 2005, she rediscovered the list and incorporated it into a narrative she wrote for her Black Cadillac shows, on which she received many comments encouraging her to record the songs.

Despite the list having its genesis in country music, she eschews the label, calling the songs on the list “100 Essential American Songs.” She also said the record isn’t just a country album, either.

“I knew I couldn’t put on a costume of it being a straight country record because I’m not a straight country singer,” she said. “I think these songs have a greater appeal than just strictly country.

They’re as much of what we are as Americans as Cole Porter or Gershwin.”

For the album, Cash chose 12 songs from the list, based on what she called a “part academic, part intuitive” process.

The songwriter said certain songs had to be represented, including ones performed by Patsy Cline (“She’s Got You”), Ray Charles (“Take These Chains From My Heart”), and the Carter Family (“Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow”).

“If there has been an iconic version of a song, you kind of carry that into the studio with you,” Cash said.

Despite that, she tried to strike a balance between a reverence for the songs that she regarded as “a kind of Holy Grail” and a desire to put her own spin on them.

Yarrow said that while The List and Cash’s current tour highlight “music that has a deep sense of history” by the people who invented country music as we know it, Cash is also moving forward stylistically.

Though The List may be a covers album, she has not abandoned her own catalogue while touring.

Even though much of the focus is on the legacy of great American songs, she doesn’t want attending the show to be “like going to a lecture.”

“The songs are so musical, and some of them really rock,” she said. “It’s a fun show.”


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