Rosanne Cash’s latest release illustrates how the label of country singer is far too limiting for a person of her talents. Perhaps she can be called a modern musician. Here’s a look at the songs on The River & The Thread, which was produced and arranged by Cash’s husband John Leventhal.
“A Feather’s Not a Bird” is a fine opening, as a Bonnie Raitt-style attitude-meets-Creedence Clearwater Revival-type instrumentation. It’s clear that there’s nothing tentative about Cash. She’s confident and in charge as she sings, “A river runs through me.” “Sunken Lands” is unique as a blend of modern and classic country built upon a Johnny Cash pulse.
“Etta’s Tune” is an introspective love song that might have been written by Jackson Browne: “We’re just a mile or two from Memphis/And the rhythm of our lives.” One can easily visualize Tom Petty singing Cash’s rocker, “Modern Blue”: “I went to Barcelona on the midnight train/I walked the streets of Paris in the pouring rain/I flew across an island in the northern sea/I ended up in Memphis, Tennessee.” There’s also a touch of the Eagles in the lyrics: “Everybody around here moves too fast/It feels so good but it’s never going to last.”
“Tell Heaven” is an unplugged song about faith. The Judds would have loved to have sung this. “The Long Way Home” is an angst-filled song about lost love that calls to mind Don Henley, Mark Knopfler and Carly Simon (“You’re So Vain”). It’s beautifully realized: “You thought you left it all behind/You thought you’d up and gone/But all you did was figure out/How to take the long way home.”
“World of Strange Design” is a song about differences and discrimination, with a musical presentation that channels Dire Straits. “Night School” is a Tori Amos-style ballad: “I’d give anything to be lying next to you/In night school.” The uplifting “50,000 Watts” calls to mind Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising”: “To be who we are/And not who we were/A sister to him, a brother to her/We’ll live like kings without any sin/Redemption will come, just tune it all in.”
“When the Master Calls” is a beautiful song about the Civil War which would have fit well on Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection album. “Money Road” is the relaxing closing song about a dream, but the standard 11-track version of this album is only 38 minutes long. Consider purchasing the limited edition deluxe version, which contains three additional songs and 10+ more minutes of music.
“Two Girls” is the first bonus track on the limited edition, and it sounds like a song from Neil Young’s Harvest Moon album. “Biloxi” is one of the great songs written by the late Jesse Winchester: “Beautiful girls are swimming in the sea/Oh, they look like sisters in the ocean/The boy will fill his pail with salted water/And the storms will blow off toward New Orleans.”
“Your Southern Heart” is a short, two-minute song with plucked violin strings that would have been a successful single in the ’60s; it’s a song in the style of the Andy Williams hit, “Can’t Get Used to Losing You.”
Cash has laid out her musical skills for the world to see on this release. It’s a masterpiece or very close to it. But forget the ratings, just think of this as a near priceless gift delivered by Cash to her fans, current and prospective.[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=B00FZRMIYY]