Rosanne Cash: Songs of the South

Rosanne Cash

By Charles McNair

The River & The Thread, Rosanne’s first album of originals since 2006’s Black Cadillac, goes South. Released by Blue Note Records on January 14, the 11 songs flow gently, a cool pleasure.

John Leventhal, Rosanne’s husband and collaborator, spares down the sound more than he ever has, lets imagination fill spaces, frees the old Southern-blues ghosts and the gospel ghosts and the country-music ghosts to rise from their occluded universes and come into ours, stories and all.

Ghosts never sounded better. Neither has Rosanne. Homecoming becomes her.

Rosanne drew her first breath of life—Southern air—in Memphis in 1955. Back then, that parallel past, her dad, Johnny Cash, sold appliances in a hardware store by day, and by night he practiced songs and dreamed big with a little band that could barely play at all. Rosanne’s mom, Vivian, ate cherry tomatoes by the bowl as she waited for her first child.

The Cash family moved along to southern California three years later, when Johnny hit it big. Rosanne grew up there, survived childhood strangeness, absorbed SoCal music (her biggest influence), hit it big too, lived in Europe, NYC—anywhere but Dixie, save a few fretful years in Nashville. The South didn’t suit her then.

After 13 studio albums and four books, River & Thread returns her to neglected roots, to the South.

But not alone.

“I went back to where I was born,” she says, “and these songs started arriving in me.”

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