New Rosanne Cash sounds inspired by the South 

“The River & the Thread” isn’t exactly a road album, alt-country queen Rosanne Cash says, even though brilliant new blues-folk-gospel songs like “The Sunken Lands,” “The Long Way Home” and the slinky “A Feather’s Not a Bird” were inspired by car trips the New Yorker and her producer husband John Leventhal took through the South. Initially starting as a drive down to Alabama to visit her dress-designing friend Natalie Chanin, the journey evolved to include stops at her father Johnny Cash’s boyhood home in Dyess, Ark. (which she’s helping to restore with Arkansas State University) and the Memphis, Tenn., abode of her dad’s old bandmate, Marshall Grant and his wife, Etta, which inspired the twangy track “Etta’s Tune.”

A story featuring your New York apartment mentioned a jigsaw puzzle. Oh, my God! I’m sitting here doing it while I’m talking to you! That’s pretty wild. But I go through phases. I tend to do puzzles when I’ve got deep problems. It’s very Zen and it frees up the part of your mind that’s going to work out your problem while you’re doing the puzzle. It’s better than therapy.

Is there a minimum of pieces involved? The one I’m working on is 1,000 pieces, and it’s the cover of a New Yorker from 1939 of a cozy area on the Lower East Side with fruit stands, a policeman and babies. And I leave it out on the coffee table — I don’t do it all at once. Serial obsessions are good for the soul. Or maybe they are the soul.

And you’ve also gotten into sewing? That is one of my current obsessions. I have a sewing circle with five other women, and we meet regularly, usually once a month. One of us hosts and puts out really nice things to eat, and we sit around and sew for two or three hours and just talk. It’s called a stitch ’n’ bitch.

What do you work on? Natalie Chanin — of the company Alabama Chanin — is the, no pun intended, thread between all of us. We all love her and most of us have been down to her Alabama studio to sew with her. So most of us are sewing Natalie’s kits. But we had has this beautiful antique tablecloth, and we started sewing words into it. One of the ladies sewed in a line from my song “A Feather’s Not a Bird,” and I’m sitting next to her, watching her do that, with tears in my eyes.

Are you competitive with sewing circle snacks? Yes! In fact, I want to give up hosting because three of the women do such good snacks, like chocolate pistachio shortbread. It’s just humiliating!


Rosanne Cash

Where: SFJAZZ Center, 201 Franklin St., S.F.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $25 to $60

Contact: (866) 920-5299;

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Tom Lanham

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