Rosanne Cash – The River & The Thread

02.14.14
Rosanne Cash
Music News Nashville

By Chuck Dauphin

In the history of Country Music, I don’t know if there has ever been a singer-songwriter who has managed to walk the fine line between introspective and sexy any more than Rosanne Cash. Going back to her early hits like “Seven Year Ache” or even the jazzy “I Wonder,” there was such a passion to her Columbia records – one that was balanced by some of the best songwriting from that era. Simply put, you had to think about what the artist was saying on gems like “Blue Moon With Heartache” or “Second To No One.”

While it’s a fact that Cash hasn’t been a regular at Country Radio in close to 25 years, her pen and her prose are no less powerful. Albums such as Ten Song Demo, The Wheel, and Rules Of Travel continue to showcase an artist who never lost her “A-Game.” Her 2010 set The List brought her musical life full circle, as she celebrated several songs that her father urged her to seek out. Just like her other recordings, the album became a critical masterpiece, also doing well commercially, as well.

To go forward artistically, sometimes you have to know where you’ve been – or in Rosanne Cash’s sake – where you come from. For her latest album, the singer spent much time in her native Delta land – Memphis and Mississippi, even going as far to spend an afternoon playing her guitar on the famous Tallahatchie Bridge. The resulting factor is an album that salutes her heritage, while at the same time widens her already vast musical legacy.

Listening to this album, you can hear the Sun, the Stax, but also a lot of the 60s sounds of acts like Dusty Springfield and Bobbie Gentry. The latter’s influence is all over the disc, with Cash’s dramatic use of the strings that graced so many of Gentry’s best known work. “A Feather’s Not A Bird” is a fine example of this, as is the haunting sounds of “The Sunken Lands,” a tribute to her grandmother Carrie – as well as the Arkansas plains that gave her father life. There’s a hint of the Carter Family / Appalachia sounds on “World Of Strange Design,” and a sadness and melancholy to “Etta’s Tune,” a tribute to longtime Cash associate Marshall Grant and his wife – surrogate parents to her over the years.

Rosanne Cash doesn’t come out with records every year and a half like so many other artists. Instead, she only releases a project when she has something to say. Some tracks might resonate with the listener on first impact, and others might take a couple listens, but this album proves why she is one of dominant singer-songwriters – not just of her generation but of all time!