So I got an email from Bruce Elder in response to the Rosanne Cash post, and I'm including it all here because it makes a lot of good points and I agree with it, even/especially the bits where I'm wrong. This might come as a surprise given a defamation brief is what you might think he'd be sending me. In fact, I generally agree with 95% of everything he writes, it's just the other 5% sends me into fits of murderous rage. And as every blogger knows, murderous rage trumps quiet accord every day of the damn week.
I was glad of the opportunity to see Rosanne Cash but of course there are reasons other than her music she was chosen for the few available Festival slots. She is critically acclaimed, especially this year, but Mary Gauthier is equally and she's playing a suburban pub next week (I am interviewing her, BTW. Very exciting.) The Kirkpatrick comparison though is more to the point though. I'd thought about all this since I saw she was booked for the Festival but didn't go into it a) I was not really blogging for most of that time and b) I don't know how to say it without sounding like I'm being critical. I am 100% in favour of seeing Rosanne Cash at the Sydney Festival and 100% aware lack of imagination (and knowledge of the genre?) is alot of the reason she's there. Is that meaningless enough? Good.
Anyway. Bruce Elder:
I think I owe your readers a note of explanation. I agonised over the comparison between Anne Kirkpatrick and Rosanne Cash and the accusation that it was an example of cultural cringe. It didn’t seem to have a lot to do with the concert and was a bit tough on Rosanne who had provided the audience with a perfectly adequate evening’s entertainment. The band was amazing and the sound, as I noted, was unbelievable.
Still, in the end, I felt so strongly about the essential unfairness of the situation – particularly as I had seen Anne Kirkpatrick and Joy McKean on the stairs on the way into the theatre – that I couldn’t restrain myself.
The points I would make are as follows:
(1) You are not correct when you say that there are other musical performers in the Sydney Festival who could be replaced by locals. Martin Hayes, for example, is the finest Irish fiddle player in the world. No Aussie is going to match his staggering virtuosity. Lou Reed’s Berlin (which I don’t care much for) doesn’t have any Australian equivalent and has, apparently, been shaped into a theatrical experience which has already been performed in New York.
(2) It was only that, as I said, the comparisons were just too close between Cash and Kirkpatrick not to be noted. “In 2006 two very gifted female singer-songwriters, both with iconic country music fathers who had recently died, recorded albums about their sense of loss and the love they had for their fathers. On Saturday night the American daughter was on stage. The Australian daughter was in the audience.” They had both, by sheer serendipity, made very similar albums about similar themes and released them within months of each other. Now the question has to be asked “Why Rosanne and not Anne?” Had Kirkpatrick been invited by the Sydney Festival I am sure she could have come up with a very resonant series of images of herself and her father and the songs on Showman’s Daughter are really as good as anything Cash has written. Or, even more tantalising, why didn’t the Festival organisers have the imagination to try and negotiate for both Cash and Kirkpatrick to perform together under a banner like “Daughters and Fathers”.
(3) I guess I am irritated by the general disinterest which exists in this country for Kirkpatrick’s work. She does not make albums on any kind of regular basis but when she does she makes extraordinary, innovative and hugely creative works which are as good as country music gets in this country. It would have been a leap of great daring for the Sydney Festival to have put Kirkpatrick on at the State Theatre. It would have been filled simply because people go to everything at the Festival. It would have shown Sydney festival goers what an extraordinary singer – songwriter they have in their midst.
(4) While Cash is a good songwriter and consistently produces very good albums she is not a legendary country performer. If we must have an overseas country act why not try and persuade someone who has not been here before (last time Cash came she was part of a threesome with Lucinda Williams and Mary Chapin Carpenter and they could not fill the Enmore Theatre) and who would only come if they had festival funds and indulgence behind them. I think particularly of Lyle Lovett’s Big Band. Now that would have been a wonder to behold – and it is unlikely that we will ever see them in this country because the cost would be prohibitive. I would also give my eye teeth to see Alison Krauss and Union Station. Just seeing Jerry Douglas would be worth the money.
But we can only dream that one day the Sydney Festival will actually consult with people who know and love certain genres of music. They don’t! And that is why Leo Schofield kept bringing out very ordinary Cuban bands and why this current regime decided on Rosanne.