Rosanne Cash: The River & the Thread
The River & the Thread
If we believed in an hereditary monarchy, it would be easy to imagine Rosanne Cash inheriting an imaginary crown from her father. Such is the majesty of this final part of her trilogy inspired by Johnny Cash’s death in 2003. But we don’t. We do, however, believe that Rosanne Cash is a remarkable singer and writer in her own right, and that she has turned a journey to her dad’s birthplace into a compelling reflexive exploration of place, memory, identity and belonging, all in an attempt to “remember who we are”.
Rosanne Cash has led an eventful life. Johnny’s first child with his first wife was born in 1955 – before his marriage to Vivian Liberto crashed and burned. Raised in California, Rosanne later moved to Nashville, where she married singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell and sang her way into the 1990s country charts before that marriage ended.
Moving to New York, Cash met second husband, the feted guitarist and producer John Leventhal, and reignited her career by adopting a more cultured style. She also wrote some well-received journalism and fiction. The deaths of her father and stepmother June Carter Cash brought Rosanne back below the Mason-Dixon line for the acclaimed Black Cadillac (2006) and The List (2009), the latter drawn from a list her father gave her of 100 key country songs.
This family history is central to The River & the Thread. Cash sustains the emotional temperature through 14 tracks thanks to the haunting melodies and her evocative lyrics, each song different to the next and yet the whole hanging together with ease. Leventhal’s guitar, restrained, elegant, fluent and incisive, sets the tone without ev er overpowering his wife’s restrained passion.
The lyrics brim with quiet intelligence and sharp observation, but it is the melodies, soaked in deftly played southern rhythms of blues, folk, country and gospel, which draw the listener in: from the Aimee Mann pop of Modern Blue to the jaunty folk blues of The Sunken Lands to the most obviously autobiographical, The Long Way Home: “You thought you’d left it all behind/You thought you’d upped and gone/But all you did was figure out/How to take the long road home”.
Download: The Sunken Lands, The Long Way Home