Families are deep mines, concealing secrets and treasures. Singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash has forged an award-winning career from what she has gleaned from her own storied family, setting impressions and memories down in song and on paper.
She’ll perform some of those songs on stage Saturday, presented by the Fairbanks Concert Association. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m.
Cash will also be the guest at a moderated talk Sunday, part of FCA’s outreach activities during its celebratory 75th anniversary season. Cash’s fans quickly claimed the 100 seats available for the event, which will help raise funds for the association’s education programs.
“I have often attempted to explain my experiences to myself through songs, by writing them, singing them, listening to them, deconstructing them, and letting them fill me like food and water,” Cash wrote in her memoir “Composed.”
“I have charted my life through not only the songs I’ve composed, but the songs I’ve discovered, the songs that have been given to me, the songs that are a part of my legacy and ancestry.”
Her inheritance stems in part from her father, Johnny Cash, and her stepmother, June Carter Cash. She does not shy away from the fame of her father. They performed each other’s songs, separately and together, and though she has described her childhood as chaotic, due in part to Johnny’s peripatetic lifestyle and his trouble with addiction, she also clearly loved and admired him. But Rosanne Cash has made sure to make room for herself and the many others in her life whose stories she wants to tell.
“At the heart of all real country music lies family, lies a devotion to exploring the bonds of blood ties, both in performance and in songwriting,” she wrote in “Composed.”
One such exploration resulted in “Sunken Lands,” a tribute to her paternal grandmother, who worked in cotton fields and raised seven children in a small New Deal-financed house in rural Arkansas. Persistence despite poverty and hardship might be the source of her own tenacity, Cash has mused.
It takes tenacity to stay successful in the music business for more than 40 years. Cash’s first album was recorded in 1978 but was never released in the United States. “Right or Wrong” was released in the U.S. in 1980 to some acclaim, then 1981’s “Seven Year Ache” pushed her from country only to the pop music hit list. She has continued to occupy the territory of genre crossover ever since.
Cash’s 15 albums have earned her four Grammy Awards and 12 nominations, along with 21 Top 40 hits, including 11 chart-topping singles. But Cash never sought fame. Instead, her instinctive introspection has given millions of listeners plenty of music that subtly shifts as the singer and her followers mature.
Fairbanksan Mike Powers is a longtime fan who has followed Cash’s career for years. (Powers is chair of the board for FCA.) He appreciates her enduring interest in the subject of family, and sees in it a connection to her early experience with folk and Americana songs.
“I sense a change through her re-dedication, her continually more intense embrace of themes of family and place,” Powers said.
Cash’s 2006 album “Black Cadillac” is one that Powers finds ever deeper resonance in as the years go by. Rosanne’s father and stepmother both died in 2003, and her mother, Vivian Liberto, died in 2005, just before the release of “Black Cadillac.” The album is dedicated to the three parental figures who helped shape her life. All of them died at the age of 71, and the album contains a track of 71 seconds of silence in homage to them.
“I listen to ‘Black Cadillac’ and feel the poignancy of loss even more now, especially as I age and lose dear friends and family through death,” Powers said.
Cash is a storyteller whatever the medium. In addition to her catalog of songs, she has written four books and numerous essays. She tells stories in documentaries and on stage.
“Women my age still have a lot to say,” she has told audiences, “and a lot less time to say it.”
You still have time to hear the icon in person this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Hering Auditorium, 901 Airport Way. Individual and subscription tickets can be bought at www.fairbanksconcert.org or by calling 907-474-8081. FCA’s office is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday in the Artisans Courtyard, 1755 Westwood Way.
Tori Tragis is the communications manager for the Fairbanks Concert Association. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.