For the first time in its 132 years, the University Musical Society will feature a country music artist — Rosanne Cash.

“American Roots/American Routes 101”

Monday, September 20 at 7 p.m.
Cobblestone Farms Barn
Free

Rosanne Cash

Saturday, Sept. 25, 2010 at 8 p.m.
Hill Auditorium
Tickets from $10

The daughter of the immortal Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash is far from your typical guitar-picking country crooner. When she emerged as an artist in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Cash stirred excitement with a number of chart-topping hits, including “Seven Year Ache.” Her unique style, which is heavily influenced by rock and pop, attracts a wide fan base inside and outside the realm of country music.

“(Her) lyrics weren’t the same old stories of love gone wrong as in usual country music,” said WCBN radio host and long-time country enthusiast Jim “DJ Tex” Manheim. “They had fresh literary devices in them. She was enormously successful.”

For her UMS debut, Cash will be applying her cutting-edge style to a very traditional set of songs from her newest album, The List. The album was inspired by the advice of Cash’s legendary father.

When Cash was singing backup vocals on her father’s tour, Johnny Cash noticed that his teenage daughter knew very little about country music. In order to expand his daughter’s knowledge, Cash jotted down a list of “100 Essesntial Country Songs” for her to explore.

“I think he was alarmed that I might miss something essential about who he was and who I was,” Cash said on the UMS website. “He had a deeply intuitive understanding and overview of every critical juncture in Southern music … These songs are as important as the Civil War to who we are as Americans.”

More than 30 years later, Cash selected 12 of these songs for The List. The album includes original covers of classics such as Hank Cochran’s “She’s Got You,” Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin’s “Long Black Veil” and folk song “Motherless Children,” as well as duets with Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and Rufus Wainwright.

Cash’s concert will be the season’s first Arts & Eats concert. For $15, students will receive a ticket to the concert, a pizza dinner and a pre-show lecture.

In addition to Arts & Eats, fans can find other Cash-related events at Manheim’s lecture “American Roots/American Routes 101 – Part 1 – Country Music” at Cobblestone Farms Barn tonight at 7 p.m. He will discuss the origins of country music and its importance in American culture, and examine how Cash and her father contributed to this genre. Manheim also plans to play some of the original recordings of the songs that Cash covered in The List.

Although this Saturday will be Cash’s UMS debut, the singer is no stranger to Ann Arbor. In fact, this past January, Cash performed many of the songs from The List as part of the 33rd Annual Ann Arbor Folk Festival.

“It should be a great show,” Manheim said. “I saw her do basically this show at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival.”

Manheim remembers how humble Cash was at that performance.

“They brought out all the artists at the end with Richie Havens and (Cash) said, ‘I can’t believe I get to stand on stage with Richie Havens.’ ”

Mirroring the daring nature of Cash and her father as artists, UMS is making a bold move including a country singer in its season lineup, which centers around an Americas/Americans theme. For Manheim and other Ann Arbor country enthusiasts, this move to “broaden the repertoire” is a welcome change.

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