TVD Live: Rosanne Cash at the Birchmere, 12/9

Rosanne Cash
The Vinyl District

It’s been two years since Rosanne Cash introduced her extraordinary album The River & the Thread in a series of concerts at the Library of Congress, and she was back in the D.C. area Wednesday still singing a handful of its haunting songs of the South (and one that helped inspire it, “Ode to Billie Joe”).
The songs themselves, presented acoustically with her husband and producer John Leventhal at a sold out Birchmere, still sound beautiful. But by now she’s incorporated them in performance that shows them to their best advantage, honing the patter that precedes them into effective introductions as well. With Leventhal playing behind her and her setting the stage, it’s almost like Springsteen in approach. 
Each of the songs are like unfolding a roadmap to a new place, but unfolding at the same time a new revelation or new emotion by way of a telling detail—a phrase, a place name, or an ordinary process, like the sewing in the title.
After all of the acclaim it generated and the three Grammys it won, there’s no sign of what’s next from Cash; she had no new song in her satchel, perhaps the effect of cell phone video and YouTube giving premature release to every little sketch. But she had a long catalog to dip into, from her compendium of influential songs, “The List,” to her own decades of songwriting.
Looking around the rapt, older audience at the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA., she recalled the first time she was at the storied place (before it landed in its present location) more than 30 years ago. Accordingly, she introduced songs “older than my oldest daughter” such as “Blue Moon with Heartache.” But even more telling perhaps is that she still closes the main set with her first big hit (which still sounds good nonetheless), “Seven Year Ache.”
Cash let just one song speak for the things going on in the news, a cover of Steve Earle’s “Jerusalem” with its hopeful chorus, “I do believe that one fine day all the children of Abraham / Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem.”
With Leventhal playing the grand piano for just about the only time in the set, it also served as the closest thing to a Christmas song in a season otherwise full of holiday shows. Read the rest of the review and see photos of the concert here