When conductor John Morris Russell and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra asked singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash about playing this month’s celebration of America’s “first great songwriter,” Stephen Foster, Cash was an easy sell.
“They asked very nicely, and I said, upon a fraction of a second’s thought, yes,” she says.
Cash is an astonishing interpreter of other’s works, evidenced by the dozen favorites of her father, Johnny Cash, she recorded for her 2009 album The List, including pieces by Bob Dylan and Merle Haggard. That, along with her familiarity with Foster’s catalog, made her a natural choice for the three-day Pops performance. “My favorite [Foster] song is ‘Hard Times,’” says Cash. “The ache and poignancy of it tell us so much about our own humanity.”
With names like Don Flemons and local favorites Over the Rhine also on the bill, one can expect a full weekend of sui generis collaborations at Music Hall. And while Cash didn’t want to reveal too much of her role, a reprise of “Hard Times” could be in order.
“It’s a song that will last forever,” says Cash. “I sang it at the Florida Folk Festival, home of the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center, outdoors on a balmy night on the Suwannee River—it was quite a moment.”
American Originals: Live From Music Hall, Jan 23–25, cincinnatisymphony.org
Originally published in the January 2015 issue