“A feather’s not a bird, the rain is not the sea,” sings Rosanne Cash; “A stone is not a mountain, but a river runs through me.”
That river is talent.
Cash sings on Wednesday at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, a benefit for Capital Region Coalition to end Homelessness. The event was postponed from Dec. 19 by family illness.
Cash sang first on the road with father Johnny, country’s fabled “Man in Black,” but she has always painted with many colors in her music and always gone her own way.
(Once when Johnny was playing Latham’s now-vanished Coliseum Theater, she and husband John Leventhal were shopping guitars at Buzzy Levine’s Lark Street Music; and neither knew the other was in town.)
Rosanne has been busy tending legacies since her mother, father and stepmother died over a short time. Her “Black Cadillac” album mourned those deaths, and “The List” celebrated her father’s favorite country songs.
On “The River and the Thread,” she patches together a colorful, very southern quilt of traditional roots and self-expression. (Born in Memphis, she grew up in Los Angeles, studied at Vanderbilt in Nashville and lives now in New York City.) This may be the finest of her 15 albums, cruising on the crest of her family’s river of talent.
On Wednesday, Cash performs with guitarist/co-writer Leventhal at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall (30 Second St.). Show time is 7:30 p.m. Admission is $39, $35 and $28. Tickets for the Dec. 19 show will be honored on Wednesday. 273-0038 www.troymusichall.org.
WHAT’S IT GOOD FOR?
Tilted WAY back in my dentist’s chair on Monday, I thought about what music is for, or if it’s for anything; and it made me uncomfortable that I was using the Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane to drown out the drill.
I like my dentist just fine; Jeff knows music, and when I’d used the subdudes in a previous appointment, he knew they were from Louisiana without knowing who they were, just hearing the sound leaking from my headphones. I told him who Wussy was when he gave me a quizzical glance over his mask: They’re from Cincinnati but make it sound like Mars. (This was before shows by both bands were announced here: Wussy on March 31 at the Low Beat, and the subdudes on July 26 at The Egg — or I would have hyped Jeff on both.)
I had used Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue” in the Ellis cardiac catheter labs, so my recent dental work isn’t my first experience of music-as-distraction/sedative. But is this abuse, somehow? And what else, if anything, can we use music for?
Pete Seeger’s recent death reminded me that music is simply great for uniting ideas to feelings, enlisting armies around principles. And, starting in the 1960s, it united us around social and class lines. How do newly dating couples, or friends forming, figure each other out if they can’t scope each other’s albums or CDs? Do folks swap their iPhones, tablets or computers? (“Uh-oh! Ted Nugent! I’m out of here!” Or, “A-HA! Tony Rice!” Or John Boutte, or Neko Case, or Cowboy Junkies!)
Like tattoos, haircuts, clothes or cars, music makes some of the badges we wear to signify our tribes, identify and announce ourselves.
When we’re alone, music makes moods intensify or abate. I remember after a romantic disaster loving sad music that felt, unlike anesthesia, like a validation of my feelings. Choosing happier music, I knew I was recovering.
In groups, music can make us jump around and get sweaty, or meditative together. Once when dinner guests arrived, we put on “Free Nelson Mandela” by Special A.K.A. and met them at the door, dancing our butts off. They tossed their coats aside and joined right in. We took a long, happy time getting to the table that night!
About that “meditative,” intoxicant thing: Does anybody listen to “New Age” music any more? Listening to the PBS New Age radio show “Hearts of Space” driving home late at night from shows out of town felt dangerous, too trance. Now I tune away from it.
My late friend Henry Hunter told me listening to Beethoven stoned him. Once he came out of a symphonic trance driving on the Thruway to recognize that he was off the road with a fender aimed at an edge marker. He corrected course to hit it with the middle of his bumper rather than break a headlight.
I recall a conversation with singer-songwriter Tom Mitchell, a former Saratoga Springs record shop owner, who talked with dismay of New Age fans who sought out this calming wordless music to avoid lyrics that might offend them. He contrasted this safe blandness with Howlin’ Wolf, an artist as expressive, as out-there, as New Age is blank and interior. Mitchell said, “You listen to the Wolf and you know that man loved ribs, and he liked them spicy-damn-hot!”
Another very useful purpose: Pissing off parents, though that may be getting harder to do. What do kids play today to annoy parents who grew up with the wild audio panorama of past decades? How could they possibly irritate fans of the Ramones or listeners who survived disco? Or Stockhausen? Or New Age?
Once when I was visiting cartoonist John Caldwell (who hits almost any show by any artist from Texas), his young daughter put on music in her room upstairs; fairly loud. John called out to her, “That’s the CLASH! That’s GREAT! Turn it UP!”
Guy Lyons (an ex-Figg) introduces his new band, Blockhouses, on Friday at the Low Beat (335 Central Ave., Albany). Lyons plays guitar and sings with bassist Christopher Pfeiffer (the Kowalskis) and drummer Bill Wolf (Wolfhaven). The Piggies, and Party Boat, open; starting at 8 p.m. Admission is $10. 432-6572 www.thelowbeat.com.
Ryder, Hazel & the Dust Bowl Faeries play Steamer No. 10 (500 Western Ave., Albany) at 8 p.m. on Saturday. Swamp Baby opens. Admission is $13, advance; $15 on Saturday. 4438-5503 www.steamer10theatre.org.
The Egg (Empire State Plaza, Albany) presents klezmer/jazz clarinetist/mandolinist Andy Statman on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. with bassist Jim Whitney and percussionist Larry Eagle. Admission is $24. 473-1845 www.theegg.org.
On Tuesday, Celtic fusion group Gaelic Storm, famous from “Titanic,” plays The Egg at 7:30 p.m. Admission is $28.
Reach Gazette Columnist Michael Hochanadel at Hochanadel@dailygazette.net.