Grammy-winning artist Rosanne Cash will perform a benefit concert at Dockery Farms on June 6, 2015. Cash won both Best American Roots Performance and Best American Roots Song for “A Feather’s Not A Bird” and Best Americana Album for The River & The Thread at the 2015 Grammy Awards ceremony. She explained her connection to Dockery and this album saying, “So much of the inspiration for The River & The Thread comes from right here on this stretch of highway from Greenwood to the Mississippi River, and the very center of the creative spark is Dockery Farms. It’s a huge thrill and the completion of a circle to finally perform these songs in this historic place.”
Cash, who has charted 21 Top 40 country singles, including 11 of which climbed to No. 1, wrote all of the new album’s songs with her longtime collaborator (and husband) John Leventhal, who also served as producer, arranger, and guitarist. The River & The Thread is a kaleidoscopic examination of the geographic, emotional, and historic landscape of the American South. The album’s unique sound, which draws from country, blues, gospel, and rock, reflects the soulful mix of music that traces its history to the region. With The River & The Thread, Cash has added the next chapter to a remarkable period of creativity. Her last two albums, Black Cadillac (2006) and The List (2009), were both nominated for Grammy Awards. The List is an exploration of essential songs as selected and given to Rosanne by her father, Johnny Cash.
The music heritage of Dockery–located just east of Cleveland, Mississippi, on Highway 8–is rich, as rich as the soil that drew Will Dockery in the late 1800s to clear thousands of acres of woods for farming. His expansive farm and self-sufficient community would become the sometimes home of peripatetic Charley Patton, who is regarded as the “father of the Delta blues.” Cash’s stage for this concert will be the cotton storage shed on the property that was built around 1925; it sits a little over a hundred feet from the commissary porch where Patton often played. Although the commissary burned in 1960, the concrete porch foundation remains. Patton himself learned from fellow Dockery resident Henry Sloan and influenced many other musicians who lived here, including Howlin’ Wolf, Willie Brown, Tommy Johnson, and Roebuck “Pops” Staples. Bill Lester, executive director of the Dockery Farms Foundation, said, “Two years ago, Rosanne and her husband John came to Dockery to talk about a ‘Save America’s Treasures’ grant they had been awarded to save her father’s home in Arkansas. I’m very pleased that they will return here to perform at the birthplace of the Blues.”
In an article for Esquire magazine, Cash offered a suggested playlist for a trip down nearby Highway 61; some of the songs included were Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited,” Robert Johnson’s “Cross Road Blues,” Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe,” Johnny Cash’s “Big River,” the Staples Singers’ “This May Be the Last Time,” Howlin’ Wolf’s “The Natchez Burning,” and Al Green’s “Take Me to the River,” and all with a tie–whether by artist or theme–to this region.
The Dockery Farms Foundation is working to ensure that Dockery can once again be a center for music education, one that serves both the general public and the local community. Over the last ten years the Foundation has restored many of the original buildings that made up the commercial center of Dockery Farms. The Foundation has also partnered with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz to bring music education programs into Delta schools. The sign on the Dockery Seed House is recognized world wide as a symbol of American Blues music and the site routinely draws visitors from all over the world. The Dockery Farms Foundation is a tax-exempt entity operating under Section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. A tax-deductible portion of each ticket sold will go to support the foundation’s preservation and education programs.
Tickets to the concert are available by visiting dockeryfarms.org or calling 662-846-4626. Gates will open at 5 p.m., and the opening act will begin at 6:30, followed by Ms. Cash’s performance at 7:30.