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Review: Cash keeps her father’s songs fresh

Review: Cash keeps her father’s songs fresh

The vintage country songs that Rosanne Cash recorded from her late, great father’s list of 100 essen

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The vintage country songs that Rosanne Cash recorded from her late, great father’s list of 100 essential country songs for her album “The List” dominated her show at The Egg on Saturday. But she made them sound fresh through an enthusiastic vocal approach and arrangements by her guitarist husband John Leventhal that felt true to their familiar essences but moved along nicely.

Her opener “I’m Moving On” cruised on 18 wheels of jazzy menace, with emphatic guitar outbursts from Leventhal and Cash’s vocals deep in the pocket. “Miss the Mississippi” sounded angelic by comparison; and “500 Miles,” “Heartaches by the Number,” “Sea of Heartbreak,” “Bury Me Beneath the Willow Tree” and “Girl From the North Country” also held that same sweet mood. “Long Black Veil” went deep despite the essential beauty of Cash’s voice.

Then things picked up steam, and if anything had felt faintly museum-ish or too respectful, “Motherless Children” — oldest song on “The List” — set the place to rocking. So did Johnny Cash’s own “Tennessee Flat Top Box,” a beautiful occasion for Leventhal to cut loose.

With these uptempo tunes as transition, Cash shifted to her own songs, mainly from “Black Cadillac” (2006). “Radio Operator” told of her parents’ romance while “World Unseen” went all modernist/existential. She soon returned to “The List,” via “Ode to Billy Joe,” which Cash said could have been on it, “Take These Chains” which is, and her own “Dreams are Not My Own” from “Black Cadillac,” which is good enough to be.

Cash said she hoped her “Seven Year Ache” might be good enough for her daughter’s daughter’s list and worked the song to powerful effect in a fervent duo reading with just Leventhal’s guitar. Encores were well-chosen: her own seriously plaintive “I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me” and her late father’s “Things Just Happen That Way,” which she proudly announced was the 10 billionth song downloaded on iTunes.

It fit perfectly, without a hint of irony, in this confident and personal display of can’t-miss tunes by a classic and classy voice.

Jenny Scheinman sang of love in its exultant, painful, confusing, romantic, tormented, despairing, dreamlike, brotherly and parental varieties, in carefully worded and gracefully melodic songs that lent themselves to melancholy in mournful leaving numbers and cautious contentment in lyrics of arrival and contentment. “The Littlest Prisoner,” however, impressed most by turning inward, womb-ward, to an unborn child — and only gradually revealed that both mother and child were in prison: an aching social problem, paradoxically exploded into our consciousness by turning feelings inward. She also turned homeward to her rural California childhood, concluding her 45-minute, quietly country-flavored set with the deepwoods Grange hall social hour “Let’s Dance the Night Away.”

Scheinman sang in a quiet, breathy, accurate alto; a jazz veteran of Bill Frisell’s bands, she decorated her tunes with violin solos, zippy or poignant, as Robbie Gjersoe supplied stalwart guitar.

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