In May 1955, Rosanne Cash was born, the first daughter of Johnny Cash and his first wife, Vivian Liberto.
In January 1968, Johnny Cash performed two shows at Folsom State Prison, resulting in a live album that was successful both as a piece of music, and as an historical artifact. It revitalized his career.
In 1973, Rosanne toured with her father. When she expressed ignorance of a number of songs that he was suggesting she sing, he wrote down a list of 100 essential country songs on a pad of legal size paper, and told her that this was her education.
In 2009, Rosanne released “The List,” an album containing some of the songs on that list which her father gave her so many years before.
And last night, Rosanne returned to Folsom, where she performed at the brand spanking new Three Stages theater on the campus of Folsom Lake College.
Performing in Folsom was obviously an emotional experience for Rosanne; she choked up on a couple of occasions during the show, once when she talked about having visited Folsom Prison that day, where she and her husband John Leventhal told stories and sang songs to some of the inmates.
I have a small confession to make – I was a big fan of Rosanne Cash for a long time before I became of big fan of Johnny Cash. That’s entirely on me – of course, I always enjoyed the JC songs that got played on the radio, like “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring of Fire” and “A Boy Named Sue” and “I Walk the Line.” But my musical tastes started to expand almost exactly at the time Rosanne hit the scene, with “Right or Wrong” in 1979. From the very start, it was apparent that her talent, her voice, and her songwriting acumen would result in a long-lasting career. And when “Seven Year Ache” hit the airwaves in 1981, I knew I’d be a fan for life. Someday I may get around to creating my own list of 100 essential songs, and there’s no doubt in my mind that “Seven Year Ache” will be on it.
Three Stages is an intimate venue, with a capacity of 850. That was the perfect setting for last night’s show, which featured Rosanne on vocals, guitar and piano, joined only by her husband John Leventhal on guitar, and by her daughter Chelsea Crowell on guitar and vocals. Because Rosanne is suffering from a “singer’s node,” she took a short break at one point, allowing Chelsea to take center stage and sing two of her own songs, plus a Carter Family chestnut.
But the night belonged to Rosanne, and if her voice cracked on one or two occasions, it only added to the character of the evening’s performance. The lion’s share of the songs came from “The List,” including “Motherless Child,” “Sea of Heartbreak” (with Leventhal playing “the role of Bruce Springsteen”), “500 Miles,” “Long Black Veil,” “Girl from the North Country,” and “Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow.” There were also four selections from “Black Cadillac,” “Runaway Train” by request, and of course, the immortal “Seven Year Ache.”
I should also compliment Leventhal, whose guitar playing was notable and impeccable, and quite impressive – the perfect accompaniment to Rosanne’s voice.
And in the end, I’m just a huge fan. Rosanne Cash has been in my personal pantheon for a long time. Being able to say that I heard her sing “Seven Year Ache” in person is one of the highlights of my music-listening life.