‘Nashville 2.0’ a tribute to Americana music

  • By Luaine Lee McClatchy-Tribune News Service
  • Monday, November 18, 2013 2:42pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Though she comes from a long line of musicians, singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash is constantly moving on.

To prove that, Cash will be one of the celebrated performers on PBS’ “Nashville 2.0: The Rise of Americana,” a documentary on the impact of roots-based American music premiering Friday on PBS.

Rosanne, daughter of iconic singer Johnny Cash, credits that heritage for some of her talent.

“Part of it is DNA, going back even before my father, because his grandfather was a choir leader in a Baptist church in Arkansas,” she said.

“And, before that, we were Scottish minstrels before we even came to America.

“But also, of course, it’s what I grew up around,” she said. “Music was currency in my family. It was a language. If you didn’t know how to say how you felt in words, you had songs to say how you felt.”

Though she was constantly exposed to his music as a child, her dad never dispensed advice about a career.

“My father would have never sat me down and said, ‘This is how you do it,’” she said.

Friday’s show, which is part of PBS’s “Arts Fall Festival,” is produced by Terry Stewart, former CEO and president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.

“Americana is not something new,” Stewart said. “It goes back even as early as 1947 when Capitol Records started the Americana label and tried to hide race music and folk music and western music and hillbilly music under one label.

Cash says she’s not only influenced by her past, but by a variety of modern musical genres, “I listen to everything,” she says. “Probably, the one that would most surprise you is Miles Davis.

“Miles Davis got me through a divorce. I just listened to that record obsessively, ‘Kind of Blue,’ and ‘Sketches of Spain’ as well,” she said.

“But I listen to everything, everything from the Decemberists to Bill Monroe to Aaron Copland.”

Americana music not only acknowledges the roots of country music it celebrates the poetry of the songwriting, Cash said.

“It’s about real songwriting, the craft of songwriting, not six people putting together a sequence of beats, but a real song that has a narrative arc and a melody and imagery,” she said.

“And the other part is I think that we respect the tradition we came from. We know our folk music and Appalachian and Delta blues, and all of that has become part of the river that goes into what’s now called ‘Americana.’ So melody, real songwriting, tradition, that’s a good start.”

Cash says her approach to songs has changed over the years. Her focus when she was 23 is different from what it is now. “Ray Charles said, ‘You are a better singer at 50 than you are at 25 because the life you’ve lived shows up in your voice.’

“And that is partly what Americana music is about, too: A life lived shows up in the voice,” Cash said.

Four years ago she introduced her album, “The List,” based on a list of the 100 greatest country and American songs that her dad gave her.

She says it originated this way: “I was 18 years old. I had just graduated high school, and I went on the road with him. And I was not interested in country music. I liked the Beatles and Elton John. I liked Creedence (Clearwater Revival) and The Band and Blind Faith.

“Of course, I heard my dad’s music and what he played around the house and what my mother played.

“But, on that tour, we were talking about songs, and he mentioned a song. I said, ‘I don’t know that one,’ and then he mentioned another. I said, ‘I don’t know that one,’ Cash said.

“And he got very alarmed. So he made this list for me, and he said, ‘This is your education.’”

Watch it

“Nashville 2.0: The Rise of Americana,” airs at 9 p.m. Friday on KCTS.

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