(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – Rosanne Cash brings her “The River & the Thread” tour to the Mahaiwe on Sunday, May 17 at 7pm. Accompanied by longtime collaborator, producer, guitarist, and husband John Leventhal and musical partner Zev Katz, Cash will take the audience on a journey through song to the people, places, and musical traditions of the American South that have fed her music and that of her parents.
Smithsonian Magazine feature writer and national music critic Geoffrey Himes will give an in-depth, pre-concert talk about Cash’s Grammy Award-winning album, “The River & the Thread,’ at 6pm.
“The River & The Thread” came in at No. 1 on the Americana Top 100 Albums of the year chart, which is compiled by the Americana Music Association. Released in January 2014, it was the highest charting album of Cash’s career on the Billboard 200 and debuted at No. 1 on the Folk Albums chart and at No. 2 on the Country Albums chart. Rolling Stone called it “remarkable,” placing “The River & The Thread” on its list of 2014 albums listeners “really should hear.” “Here it is – the best album of 2014,” said People. The New York Times’ Jon Pareles pronounced it “superb” and Newsweek hailed it as “the work of a lifetime.”
“The River & The Thread” is sweeping in its breadth, capturing a unique, multi-generational cast of characters – from a Civil War soldier off to fight in Virginia to a New Deal-era farmer in Arkansas to a contemporary Mobile, Ala., couple. While Cash and Leventhal found inspiration in the many musical styles associated with the South – swampy Delta blues, gospel, Appalachian folk, country and rock, to name a few – this is a completely contemporary collection. Cash’s crystalline voice and Leventhal’s compelling guitar work are at the heart of the album, and they bring in additional instrumentation to suit the tone of each particular song – from the delicate orchestral passages of “Night School,” (which nods to Stephen Foster, who also had a deep affection for the South) to the ghostly keyboards of album closer “Money Road.”
“I went back to where I was born, and these songs started arriving in me,” Cash has said about her most recent album. “All these things happened that made me feel a deeper connection to the South than I ever had. We started finding these great stories, and the melodies that went with those experiences. I feel this record ties past and present together through all those people and places in the South I knew and thought I had left behind.”
The album reflects journeys through the Southern states, with stops at William Faulkner’s house; Dockery Farms, the plantation where Howlin’ Wolf and Charley Patton worked and sang; her father’s boyhood home in Dyess, Arkansas; the Sun Records Studio in Memphis; and the Mississippi Delta, with its memories of the birth of the Civil Rights era and the haunting gravesite of the great bluesman Robert Johnson.
The oldest daughter of country music icon Johnny Cash and stepdaughter of June Carter Cash of the legendary Carter Family, she holds a lineage rooted in the very beginning of American country music, with its deep cultural and historical connections to the South. Over a three-decade career she has responded to this heritage with 15 albums of extraordinary songs that have earned four Grammy Awards and nominations for 12 more, the Americana Honors and Awards’ Album of the Year Award, and 21 top-40 hits, including 11 No. 1 singles. She has also written four books, including the best-selling memoir, “Composed.”
In recent seasons, Cash has appeared in concerts and talks at the Spoleto Festival, Toronto’s Luminato festival, and the Festival of Arts and Ideas, and partnered in programming collaborations with the Minnesota Orchestra, Lincoln Center, and San Francisco Jazz.
Geoffrey Himes wrote the Smithsonian magazine feature article about Rosanne Cash’s 2014 American Ingenuity Award. He has also written about music for the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, the New York Times, Jazz Times, Sing Out, and many other publications since the late 1970s. He has won three ASCAP/Deems Taylor Awards for music writing. Born in the USA, his book on Bruce Springsteen, was published in 2005, and he is currently finishing a book for the Country Music Hall of Fame about Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, and Ricky Skaggs.
Tickets are $29 to $79 and include admission to the pre-concert talk by Geoffrey Himes. A limited number of $15 tickets are available for audience members ages 30 and younger through the Mahaiwe ArtSmart Tix program, sponsored by Greylock Federal Credit Union.
The Mahaiwe is located at 14 Castle Street in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Box office hours are Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 6:00pm and three hours before show times. For tickets and information, visit the Mahaiwe or call 413.528.0100.