I recently reached another crisis in confidence with my music blog, Rubber City Review. Just what is this thing all about? Why keep blathering on about music that most humans simply don’t care about?
Then I came across a passage in Rosanne Cash’s new book, Composed: A Memoir, that also could serve as RCR’s mission statement:
“We all need art and music like we need blood and oxygen. The more exploitative, numbing, and assaulting popular culture becomes, the more we need the truth of a beautifully phrased song, dredged from a real person’s depth of experience, delivered in an honest voice; the more we need the simplicity of paint on canvas, or the arc of a lonely body in the air, or the photographer’s unflinching eye. Art, in the larger sense, is the lifeline to which I cling in a confusing, unfair, sometimes dehumanizing world.”
I’ve been a fan of Cash’s ever since King’s Record Shop was released back in 1987. And I have to admit, her music doesn’t sit comfortably next to a lot of stuff I listen to. Nor would anyone confuse the writing on my blog with the kind of intense, deeply reflective, almost painstakingly eloquent language found in Composed. Let me put it this way: Rosanne Cash will not be appearing at a chuckle-hut near you.
But she’s had a long-standing gig at my house. I may have been raised on the Stones, but my daughters were raised on Rosanne Cash – along with other alt-country favorites like Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Dwight Yoakam and Gillian Welch (for some reason, my girls didn’t take to Howlin’ Wolf… although Meghan loves Taj Mahal). Rosanne’s highly literate songs provided the soundtrack to many of our trips south. And even though my youngest eventually moved on to hip hop and rap, I’m sure she still has a soft spot for Cash’s “The Wheel.”
Cash brings the same sensitive touch you can hear in her music to Composed. And her descriptions of growing up in a musical family especially resonated with me. We’re sort of the Cash family in reverse. Although my brothers and sister remain active and performing musicians (and I’m considering a return to service), all of the fame and notoriety has landed on the next generation as nephew Dan Auerbach – and his musical soulmate in The Black Keys, Pat Carney – continue their march toward world domination. Granted, they may never be as recognized and beloved as Johnny Cash, but there’s still plenty of time.