Seven months ago, it would cost you between $45 and $65 to catch Rosanne Cash at the Guthrie Theater. Tonight and tomorrow night, her show is free with a regular admission ticket to the fair. There isn’t a single performer at the expensive grandstand shows each night that is a better songwriter.
We probably owe Cash’s bargain appearance to her just-released memoir, “Composed” — gigs like this are probably a better way to get the word out than a traditional book signing. The Washington Post describes it as “wise, honest and utterly engaging,” and the most universal criticism seems to be that it is “tame” about dishing dirt or otherwise getting into the sort of tawdry gossip that serves like a carnival barker to corral the consumer hordes.
No surprise there. Cash has always avoided facile solutions. Introspective and self-critical to a fault, she had been publicly wrestling with her legacy as the daughter of Johnny Cash long before the release of “Composed.” And if she skims over the gory details of her marital breakup with singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell, as claimed in a fine book review by the Strib’s Jon Bream this weekend, well, albums like “Interiors,” “The Wheel” and even “King’s Record Shop” provide plenty of harrowing perspective on that dissolution.
Just evoking those three titles makes me nostalgic for the Rosanne Cash who is less engaged in such broad recapitulations, however. Both “Composed” and Cash’s latest album, “The List,” lack the creative immediacy of the songwriter in the current day-to-day. “The List,” refers to a gift of sorts from her famous father, a compilation of what he regarded as “100 essential country songs” as a counterpart to flirtation with Linda Ronstadt and SoCal pop-rock in the ’70s. Rosanne Cash distilled her father’s chosen 100 down to a dozen for the album, but plays many of the others live.
They are of course indelible classics, and she will be performing them with her full band at the fair, as opposed to the quieter duets with her husband, John Leventhal, that occurred at the Guthrie. Although her own “classics” from “Interiors” or “King’s” will no doubt be sprinkled into the set list, I’m itchy for some new material that doesn’t relate to her father or her past. Let her take a stab at a pop song; it will inevitably become something larger, because Roseanne Cash doesn’t write ditties.
But why quibble? Roseanne Cash and her band will be performing for free tonight and tomorrow. Enough said.
Here she is earlier this year at the Big Tent Falkland Estate in North Fife.
And here is Cash playing “What We Really Want” from “Interiors” a year ago July at the Dakota.
Rosanne Cash at the Leinie Lodge Bandshell at the Minnesota State Fair, tonight and tomorrow night at 8:30; show is free with general admission ticket.