Concert review by Eric Sandberg — Rosanne Cash with the John Leventhal Band
The Soraya Center Center for the Performing Arts, February 17, 2019
L-R: John Leventhal, Rosanne Cash, Matt Beck, Sam Phillips, Dan Reiser, Zev Katz, (Photo from Mrs Lev's Instagram)
Rosanne Cash is an American original. It's not often that one can bestow such a label upon the offspring of an icon ("Julian Lennon is a British original" wrote no one ever), but in a long career as a singer, songwriter and author Cash has earned it. She was born a Memphis girl, raised a Valley girl and adults as a New York City sophisticate.
Eight years after helping inaugurate it, Rosanne Cash and her band, led by husband/bandleader/guitarist John Leventhal, returned to the Younes & Soraya Nazarian Center For The Performing Arts (nestled in the campus of Cal State Northridge) to perform a mesmerizing set of numbers from her excellent new album She Remembers Everything, along with a selection songs from her Grammy winning trio of Americana albums, The River and the Thread, The List, and Black Cadillac.
The beautiful and multi-tiered Soraya theater was packed with an appreciative audience that included famed producer Don Was and legendary Hot Band guitarist Albert Lee as Cash and band took the stage and immediately filled the room with an ethereal sound that resembled country music but suggested something more.
Albert Lee flanked by Multi-instrumentalist Kevin Barry (left) and guitarist John Leventhal
(Photo from Mrs Lev's Instagram)
Cash's voice is powerful and a little quirky, no one sounds quite like her. It's the kind of voice capable of carrying an entire evening of slow and mid tempo songs (I'm guessing they don't get booked to play too many hoedowns) but the songs are beautiful, emotional and powerful. On their own they tell stories but hearing Rosanne Cash tell the stories behind the songs before she sings them is an extra special treat.
She talked about her dad and the list he gave her of one hundred essential American songs, and told of the strength of her grandmother who toiled and loved her family in spite of her no account husband, and she cast back to her Cash ancestors who fought on both sides of the Civil War.
The band, consisting of Cash's husband John Leventhal on guitar and piano, newcomer Matt Beck on keyboards and mandolin, veteran session and road warrior Zev Katz on bass, brush master Dan Reiser behind the kit and Cash's secret weapon Kevin Barry on guitar and lap steel, settled into a virtually flawless performance supporting these exceptional songs, including a brilliantly arranged cover of The Beatles' "Things We Said Today" and Billie Gentry's "Ode To Billy Joe" both of which allowed me to hear these songs in a different light.
Kevin Barry gives David Lindley and Greg Liesz a run for their money on the lap steel and he played his boss to a draw on a breathtaking extended Stratocaster duel that nearly brought down the house late in the show.
But none of this could overshadow the woman at center stage as Rosanne Cash commands attention with her voice and and poise. The joy she exhibited as she brought her friend and collaborator Sam Phillips to the stage to sing a couple of songs with her was sincere and contagious. Most importantly for a veteran artist, she was able to play a healthy selection of numbers from her newest album without losing the audience for a moment which is a clear indication that her muse remains undiminished.
Eric Sandberg: My true opinion on everything is that it's splunge.