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Rosanne Cash will perform Friday at the Princess Theatre.
Courtesy photo
Rosanne Cash will perform Friday at the Princess Theatre.

PRINCESS THEATRE PERFORMANCE
Rosanne Cash exploring life in ‘Black Cadillac’
Singer-songwriter to tell her story through words, music, moving images

By Patrice Stewart
pstewart@decaturdaily.com · 340-2446

One of us gets to go to heaven;

One of us has to stay here in hell.

It’s a lonely world;

Yes, it always was.

— From Rosanne Cash’s album “Black Cadillac”

Those words, and the images of a black Cadillac, a cemetery and a red rose on an album cover, give insight into what life has brought Rosanne Cash in recent years.

She has turned death and life experiences into music and song, which has proven to be good therapy for everyone.

You may ride in a “Black Cadillac” as it winds its way through a cemetery, but it’s also the title of Cash’s newest album and her concert tour, which comes to Decatur’s Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts on Friday.

“The name ‘Black Cadillac’ is a metaphor for death, and sometimes the last car that drives you away,” she said, but for Cash, a black Cadillac brings back even more images, because both her parents drove black Cadillacs during her childhood.

Both her father, Johnny Cash, and stepmother, June Carter Cash, died in 2003, and within the same two-year period, she lost her mother, Vivian Liberto.

Her “Black Cadillac” album, which was nominated for a 2007 Grammy Award in the Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album category, “is kind of an exploration of the terrain of life,” Cash said in a phone interview Wednesday.

“It’s complicated — it’s not just one thing, not just sadness or grief. And I found that as I went on, when I thought I was just writing about life, I was actually writing a lot about what remained.”

On Tuesday, her father’s lakeside home near Hendersonville, Tenn., was destroyed by fire, another reminder that nothing is permanent.

The 13,880-square-foot home is where Johnny and June Carter Cash lived for more than 30 years and entertained U.S. presidents, musician friends and fans.

She had written a tribute to the house before the fire.

“My song ‘House on the Lake’ on my latest album is about that house,” Cash said.

“It’s even more apparent to me now that there are physical things that you lose, and you have to keep the essence of them in your heart,” she said.

Her multimedia concert will include self-narrated videos with childhood photos and poetic images from her life. “It includes images of that lake house and my mother’s house,” she said.

She describes her style as “American roots music, so within that there is rock, there is country, there is folk. But it’s more on a continuum that’s not so strictly divided into these categories. It feels very natural to me and comes from my background — and there’s everything from blues to folk in my background as an American singer-songwriter.”

Cash, now 51 and a singer, songwriter and musician in her own right, doesn’t like to talk about how her past helped shape her career.

“I don’t have that attachment to my parents any more, where I’m trying to emulate them or rebel against them,” she said.

She acknowledges that her father’s talent and sense of integrity fed into her songwriting.

“And my mother was a very structured person. I’ve assimilated that sense of structure, and it’s served me well,” she said.

Cash grew up in Ventura, Calif., and spent years in Nashville but has lived in New York for about 16 years. She will be joined on stage by her band, which includes her husband, guitarist John Leventhal.

Keeping busy

She’s got a busy life these days, with her words and music going to more places than she can make it, and she often must leave an 8-year-old son at home.

She will be in Nashville on Monday for the Country Music Television awards to present the Johnny Cash Visionary Award to Kris Kristofferson. Her tour will bring her to Opelika on Saturday, the day after her Princess Theatre performance. On May 5, she’s scheduled to perform in Los Angeles at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, followed by a show in San Luis Obispo before moving on to Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, her music, writings and conversation will be part of the Nashville 2007 Film Festival on April 22 at 9 p.m. “Mariners and Musicians,” a short film by Steve Lippman, features her, along with songs from “Black Cadillac,” which was named one of the Best Albums of 2006 by Billboard and made the New York Times Top 10.

For Cash, favorite songs and albums change with time. “The latest is the most resonant with me,” she said, and her favorite “depends on where I am that night and what I’m performing.” Whether she’s singing songs from “Seven Year Ache,” “Interiors” or “Rules of Travel,” the honest emotions come through.

Lindy Ashwander, executive director of the Princess Theatre, said they booked this performance a year ago, soon after the release of “Black Cadillac.”

“We were hearing good things then, and it turns out it has become one of the most highly rated albums with incredible reviews,” Ashwander said. “This concert should be a once-in-a-lifetime experience in the tradition of Chris Botti and Arlo Guthrie, and we’re committed to keep bringing Grammy-winning artists.

If you go

What: Singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash in “Black Cadillac: The Concert”

When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts

Tickets: $30 to $45; call the box office, 340-1778, or check www.princesstheatre.org

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