Sight Unsound: Loss fuels a Cadillac, and Zappa’s progeny plugs in

Dec 5, 2006 at 7:12 pm
Rosanne Cash: Rosanne Cash visits the Brown Theatre on Friday.
Rosanne Cash: Rosanne Cash visits the Brown Theatre on Friday.
Rosanne Cash is a Grammy-winning recording artist, an accomplished author and a dedicated mother. Still, she is perhaps best known as the daughter of American musical icon Johnny Cash and his first wife, Vivian Liberto. Between 2003 and 2005, Cash lost both of her biological parents as well as her stepmother, June Carter Cash. She points to these lachrymose events as the impetus for her most introspective writing to date.

With their passing, Cash was compelled to sort through the collective legacy of her parents and ponder what their death meant for the rest of her own life. All this contemplation culminated in a collection of 12 songs she titled Black Cadillac. Released earlier this year, the album is a chronicle of loss, grief and re-identification that showcases the increasingly profound singer-songwriter in a way that might surprise her casual fans.

“I’ve tried to make sense of life all along, but I’m finding that in middle age you definitely are struck by the realization that (life) is amazingly short in the grand scheme, especially when those you love start to take leave of this world,” she said in a recent interview. “A sense of your own mortality hits you, but like it or not, you have to integrate it into the way you live in the present moment. Lately I’ve been forced to wake up in a sense.”

Like her father, this enigmatic artist is something of a religious pilgrim. Cash’s spiritual seeking has informed and shaped her body of work in unexpected ways, and it has played no small role in her awakening of late.
“I’m essentially Buddhistcapalian,” she explained. “I practice a form of Buddhist meditation every day, and when I’m in New York, I attend St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in the Village. Both traditions are, at their roots, concerned with compassion and self-awareness, so the combination suits me well and keeps me focused on the things that really matter in life and the things that linger after death.”

On Cash’s new record, her unique spiritual base of operations has enabled her to better explore the ways in which relationships that are founded on love do, in fact, survive death. That said, Black Cadillac does not offer any ultimate answers concerning the afterlife. The conclusions drawn therein are akin to the observation made by Oscar Wilde that, “The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death.” Cash seems content in the end to let that mystery be. Regardless of how it is perceived or received by the public, the whole project, itself a labor of love, has brought some much-needed peace to her soul.

Since the release of what many consider her masterwork, Cash has immersed herself in an extensive concert tour highlighting the tracks that comprise Black Cadillac. The current trek has been incredibly important to Cash.

“This tour is not a memorial service. The music we play has its own life force that is in constant dialogue with the listeners, and each audience brings something different to it every night,” she said. “In this way, the songs continue to evolve and take on new meaning.”

Rosanne Cash will make a rare appearance at the Brown Theatre on Friday, Dec. 8. Though she is on the road promoting Black Cadillac, expect a representative assortment of tunes from her entire career. This all-ages show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets ($35-$42) are going fast. Call 584-7777.

“We are a good, honest band. It is all heart all the time,” says Sparta’s Tony Hajjar. After fleeing war-torn Beirut in 1979, Hajjar made his way to Texas, where he immersed his young self in American culture. He started to drum along to the music of Twisted Sister and Motley Crue but never felt particularly musically inclined. Nevertheless, after a stint as a chemistry teacher, Hajjar found himself in the important indie band At The Drive In. After Drive In’s demise, some of the other principal players ended up in The Mars Volta while Hajjar and singer/guitarist Jim Ward formed the core of Sparta.

This El Paso unit delivers dark, melodic, intricate songs that are just poppy enough to please the masses. Upon the recent release of its third album, Sparta has been compared to the likes of Radiohead, U2 and My Chemical Romance. “We finally feel right in our own skin,” Hajjar said. Sparta is sharing the bill with eclectic California stylists The Deftones. Together they rock Headliners Music Hall (1386 Lexington Road, 584-8088) next Wednesday, Dec. 13. This 18-and-over show starts at 9 p.m. It is, however, a special event, and tickets are only available through the fine sellers of Camel cigarettes.

You’ve probably seen him on TV or in a random movie cameo, but Dweezil Zappa is, first and foremost, a musician. Over the years, he has released a number of engaging solo albums and has lent his talents as a guitarist to a variety of other recording artists (including the legendary Spinal Tap). He also happens to be Frank Zappa’s eldest son.

At the moment, Zappa is in the midst of celebrating and extending his father’s legacy through one of the year’s most interesting tours. Together with a killer cast of like-minded musicians, Zappa is recreating his father’s oft-overlooked masterpieces. Zappa rightly feels that he has a certain responsibility to do so.

“Frank’s overall contribution to the world of music is not properly understood,” Zappa said. “With this project, we are re-educating the public and looking to expose a younger generation to Frank’s unique compositional style. What is marketed to kids these days is so limited, but they don’t even realize it. The 12-year-old mind that is accustomed to rap and pseudo-punk will be obliterated by this experience.”

So will the rest of us.

Zappa plays Zappa at the Palace Theatre (625 S. Fourth St.) next Wednesday, Dec. 13. The all-ages affair starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $40.50-$50.50. Call 361-3100.