on January 14, 2014
I got up early this morning to listen to the 3 new Cd's that were downloaded while I was sleeping. The first I chose to listen to was The River & The Road only because it was 1st in line. I will be honest about this recording I only ordered it on a whim that it would be different from what I listen to.
I am not sure how I would classify this recording but it lies somewhere between Country, Folk and Americana. The recording itself is one of the best recordings that I have heard in sometime. It is fresh, honest, sincere, well written, and surprisingly fantastic piece of work. The engineering and production seems to be flawless. I can't find one song that is not a keeper.
I say do yourself a big favor and buy it,you can't go wrong!
on January 14, 2014
"The River & The Thread", the first release of new material in nearly a decade by singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash is a wonderful "travelogue" through the South. After having listened to this album, I thought: Wow! Her late father Johnny Cash would have been so proud of her. Of course, I should mention that you need to listen to this album multiple times to be able to truly appreciate it as this is not a musical "quickie", so to speak. Take your time, sit back, close your eyes and really listen so you can immerse yourself in these wonderful songs.
This album is not something you can easily put a music-label on as it has elements of country, folk, bluesy soul, jazz and pop/rock. These personal songs are lyrical stories about her travels in the Deep South put to music, using her wonderful voice to paint word-pictures as she examines what it means to be a Southern American. Rosanne Cash wrote the album's 11 original songs with her longtime collaborator and husband John Leventhal, who also served as producer, arranger and guitarist.
"A Feather's Not A Bird", the opening song of the album, and which reminded me of Creedence Clearwater Revival, is a great example of Rosanne's mixing of styles. "Sunken Lands", named for the area where Johnny Cash grew up, is a nice harmonic ditty, and "Etta's Tune" is an ode to Etta and Marshall Grant, Marshall being a longtime family friend and member of Johnny Cash's band. The catchy "Modern Blue" has a strong Tom Petty/Jeff Lynne-vibe and the hymn-like "Tell Heaven" is a meditation on longing and loneliness.
Next is the moody Southern pop song "The Long Way Home", about memories of her father and her time in Tennessee, which is followed by "World Of Strange Design" with its catchy country chorus. "Night School" evokes the mood of a nursery rhyme while the bluesy "50,000 Watts" with its gospel overtones is one of my favorites. Another great song is "When the Master Calls The Roll", a tale of love torn apart during the Civil War with elements from gospel and Irish folk (and based on two of Cash's relatives from the Civil War era).
Cash finishes with "Money Road", an evocative song about a road in Mississippi where you find the grave of blues legend Robert Johnson; the grocery store where in 1955 the black youth Emmett Till supposedly flirted with a white woman and was hanged for that offence; and the Tallahatchie Bridge, which features also in "Ode To Billie Joe," Bobbie Gentry's 1967 hit about two lovers who drop something forever mysterious off that bridge.
Rosanne Cash is an outstanding singer-songwriter, making every word and every note count, with a crystalline voice that fits perfectly with her style of music. As I said at the start of this review, take your time as you listen to "The River & The Thread", as these songs are threaded together into one cohesive work that should be listened to from front to back in its entirety without interruptions. Recommended!
on January 14, 2014
Over the years, Rosanne Cash has wisely built up a cache of ardent fans; fans who are willing to stick by her through every weal and woe and fans who gulp up every note she hums to. Thus, unlike many burgeoning artists, she’s no longer under the tyranny of recording companies to churn up radio hits and to keep vigilance on her sales figures. Nowadays, Cash can take her time to smell the roses; she simply has the luxury of releasing a record not because she’s obligated to but because she wants to. And being in such an esteemed position has privileged her to be more creative, freer to explore issues closer to her heart rather than writing just to catch a hit. Cash’s former album “The List,” for instance, comprises of 12 songs she personally handpicked from a list her dad Johnny Cash when she was merely 18 years old. After making her home in New York for years, her new album was inspired when Cash was invited to restore her dad’s boyhood home back in the heart of Dixie Land.
In many ways, “The River and the Thread” is part of Cash’s trilogy of releases connected to her late dad Johnny Cash. While 2006’s “Black Cadillac” is Cash’s grief stricken farewell to Cash Sr., 2008’s “The List” comprises of songs from her dad’s bucket list of songs while this current opus was inspired by her trip back to her parents’ home. Thus, “The River and the Thread” has a bittersweet sepia tone nostalgia to it. Though it’s truly a Southern record rifle with histrionics of the land, it’s by no means a country album. That is, if we define “country" in terms of the spiky rollicking style of Cash’s 80s heydays when she was ruling the airwaves with “Second to No One,” “Seven Year Ache,” and "Hold On” among many others. Rather, “The River and the Thread” is a reflective record, the kind that Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin and Cash’s buddy Emmylou Harris are making in their latter careers. It’s reflective, spiritual, thought provoking and it showcases Cash’s maturity at her craft.
With the serpentine twirling of the electric guitar that harkens the ghosts of the deep Southern and some distorted Keb’Mo-like sounding swampy drums, “A Feather’s Not a Bird” is Cash’s sonic travelogue as she makes her way back to the place and things that mean the most to her. On this record, you will find Cash flitting through lots of geographical land marks, but it’s through such a journey she also acts as our tour guide helping us to visit various emotional terrains too. “Etta’s Tune” finds us lock in tears land where Cash pays a touching tribute to Marshall Grant who was Johnny Cash’s bass player. But more than just a professional acquaintance, Marshall and his wife Etta were like surrogate parents to Cash. Sounding like a cross between a lullaby and a delicate orchestral piece, “Night School” is a nod to Stephen Foster who himself has a deep affection for the South. Here Cash’s measured yet quietly emotional delivery is easily the album’s apogee. She does funky with “Modern Blue.” Not since her “The Wheel” album has Cash packed up so much energy on what is her coolest propulsive rock tune in a long while. Listening to her hubby cum producer John Leventhal’s crunchy guitar curlicues is worth the price of this album.
“The River and the Thread” is also Cash’s most spiritual record: though a new composition, “Tell Heaven” has an old Southern church charm to it where Cash urges us to transfer own sorrows and frustrations from our own shoulders to that of God’s. While Rodney Crowell’s “When the Master Calls the Roll” (a song Crowell first penned for Emmylou Harris) speaks of reconciliation and healing of those torn asunder by the Civil War. The song itself is a work of art as it slowly unveils like a script of a novella. And not to be missed is “50,000 Watts” which speaks of the power of prayer that brims with optimism. “The River and the Road” may not have songs as catchy as her earlier country hits but it’s hugely compensated by its lyrical depth and insights. This is a record not for the frivolous, but it’s a narrative piece of art for those who want something to chew on for years to come.
The River And The Thread went to #1 on Amazon 01-19-14.
Roseanne Cash recently said in an interview ,"I think music, poetry, and art can do more to change people's outlooks than politics. But only a few people do it really, really well." She was not thinking about her new album, but that is exactly how I would describe her new CD. The first listen will change your attitude, your feet start moving, your legs, your knees, and then a smile opens. By the end of the album, we have become connected to the Southern Roots of Roseanne Cash's memories.
The first tune, 'A Feather's Not A Bird' is filled with the Southern theme, the Delta Country that resounds with the music of the blues. From there we take the southern tour from Arkansas to Memphis. 'Sunken Land' gives us the feel of the fields, the river working the sunken land. 'Modern Blue' brings us to far off lands, but back to Memphis and relationships. 'What's the temperature, darlin?"in 'Etta's Tune' was the question one of Johnny Cash's band mates asked his wife, Etta, everyday as he rose. 'Tell Heaven' is Roseanne's answer to looking for someone to listen to your problems, your woes and ask for blessings. '50,000 Watts' sung with Cory Chisel, may be one of my favorite of these tunes, love the combining of the voices. 'When The Master Calls The Roll', the tune that recounts the Civil War is a rich, remembrance of those times. 'Money Road', the road that leads to the Tallahatchie Bridge where someone threw something off the bridge, and, other more gruesome tales occurred. All in all a CD filled with the richness of southern soil and soul. I received the Deluxe version, which includes three more songs, all so worthy of the southern tour.
'The River and The Thread' is Americana bluesy roots at it's best. John Leventhal, Rosanne's husband, collaborated,and produced this CD, while arranging and playing the guitar. The music is at once a background to Roseanne's beautiful voice, and a part of the soul bringing the words to life. It is filled with eloquence, romance and the feel of Roseanne's southern heart.
'It's a hard road but it fits your shoes' from the song '50,000 Watts' seems to summarize the message of the southern tour.
"It's a hard road but it fits your shoes
Son of rhythm, brother of the blues
The sound of darkness, the pull of oak
Everything is broken and painted in smoke"
Highly Recommended. prisrob 01-14-14
on February 22, 2014
Assuming a lack of short memories (a dubious assumption at best), this magnificent album released January 14, with its deepest and most haunting exploration of the deep southern psyche since Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe" way back in the summer of 1967, should be the top contender for best Americana album of 2014 ten months from now. If you doubt the "Billie Joe" spiritual connection of deep southern drama and desperation, look carefully at the cover photo of Rosanne Cash standing on a bank of the same Tallahatchee River immortalized in that song. That is "The River" -- and it is a "thread" that links them over 47 years. Rosanne visited "the ghostly (Tallahatchee) bridge" before embarking on the creation of this song cycle. She sings about it in her "World of Strange Design," a dissection of the "crumbling promised land" of the Mississippi Delta whose "old ideas" once condemned the anomalous peace-loving Billie Joe to a misunderstood (except by the young woman recounting the 1967 song's narrative) martyr's death at that same bridge.
[To find a further "thread," you'll need to go back to Sunday evening, September 10, 1967, when Bobbie Gentry performed her current number one hit, "Ode to Billie Joe," on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" -- the very same episode on which folksinging/songwriting genius, peace and social justice activist, and Hudson River protector Pete Seeger was finally liberated from his 14-year network TV blacklisting. (Not a coincidence.) Seeger played and sang his anti-war anthems "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," as well as his most recent one from earlier that year, "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy" (which was censored by CBS from the original broadcast but shown the following year). The "thread" is taken up lyrically in the concluding two lines of "Ode to Billie Joe": "And me, I spend a lot of time picking FLOWERS up on Choctaw Ridge / And drop them into the MUDDY WATER off the Tallahatchee Bridge." Pete Seeger passed away at age 94, half a long lifetime after "Billie Joe," and thirteen days after "The River & the Thread" was released.]
This is a beautifully conceived, intelligent, poetic and deeply personal album by Rosanne Cash and her producer-arranger-co-writer-multi-instrumentalist husband John Leventhal. In the past four months there have been a pair of overwhelmingly superb deep southern Americana albums by two absolute icons of this country subgenre: this one by Rosanne Cash and last year's "Hoodoo" by Tony Joe White, who fittingly guest stars here on the anti-war song "When the Master Calls the Roll" set in the Civil War [note that Pete Seeger once recorded an album of Civil War songs], along with Amy Helm, Kris Kristofferson, John Prine, and Rosanne's former husband Rodney Crowell, who co-wrote the song.
The limited deluxe edition is a must for its 36-page book, its perfect closing song "Your Southern Heart" (whose final line, "Let the river wash you over and fill your southern heart" links to the key refrain line in the album's opener, "A Feather's Not a Bird": "But a river runs through me") and especially Rosanne's lovely take on the 1970 masterpiece "Biloxi" by southern pacifist Jesse Winchester.
on January 23, 2014
Rosanne Cash's last release, "The List", songs suggested as must-be's by her Father, Johnny Cash was a masterpiece, winning the award for the best Americana album of that year. "The River and The Thread" is every bit the album that one was, and maybe even more. More possibly because all of the songs were written by Rosanne. This is the best Americana type album of music that i have heard so far this year, and it will take a minor miracle for anyone to top it in that genre, or possibly any other. If you've never bought a Rosanne Cash album before "The River and The Thread" would be the best place you could start. There is not a weak song on the album. It is just simply great! A perfect album.
on September 18, 2014
I haven't bought new music for many, many years. I always liked Rosanne Cash - her lyrics are thought-provoking, and her instrumentation is usually very interesting. I don't even remember how I heard of this album, or where - but, boy am I glad I bought it!!!
The title song is perfection - words and music combine into a song I literally can listen to over and over. My hearing "ain't so great" anymore (too many concerts in my youth), so I get the most enjoyment out of this album via in-ear headphones - it's amazing, the level of detail, in both voice and instruments.
Rosanne has a voice that is perfectly suited to my ear - clear, unforced, wide range, and well-controlled/used. And, there isn't a single song on the album that I do not like. The lyrics tell stories because there is more verse than refrain (my biggest gripe with most "modern" music), and the instrumentals go right along, supporting the stories.
The instrumentals on this album are also a throwback - so many obviously talented musicians, allowed to express their experience and creativity. Yes, I understand the studio process, but this album still sounds like it could be the group sitting on a porch, playing old favourites - folk or people, instead of technical, music.
on February 9, 2015
Three Grammys were given to this wonderful album and the fine work of Rosanne Cash and her husband/collaborator, John Leventhal. This is another album of the consistent high quality that represents most all of the Cash catalog. There is no finer female singer/songwriter working in the business these days. She has paid her dues for about 4 solid decades and truly deserved the recognition she received at the Grammys.
There isn't a single clunker or piece of filler on this album, but then there never is on any Cash album. The woman is not only a fine performer, musician and consistently excellent creator, but a testament to dedication, discipline and integrity. She works hard at perfecting her craft and you can readily hear it.
Do yourself a real favor and buy this limited deluxe edition with the extra songs and the beautiful packaging. It is well worth the additional expense if only for more great songs.
My personal favorite song on the album is "Night School", but the opening track, "A Feather's Not A Bird" is a true stunner. And "When The Master Calls The Roll" is one of the finest Civil War-themed ballads I have ever heard.
I have come to expect that every new album from this rare and special artist will be a notch above the last album and I am never disappointed. Each album is a new revelation. But frankly, it just about doesn't (can't?) get any better than this and I fully believe success will never go to this lady's head. So we will hopefully be listening to much more quality work in the coming years.
Congratulations Roseann Cash and John Leventhal! To say you deserve the recognition is a major understatement. Your work makes me proud to be an American and I seldom feel that way these days.
on February 8, 2014
The first thing that strikes me about Rosanne Cash's 'The River and the Thread' -- which she wrote with her producer-husband John Leventhal -- is that, musically, it doesn’t sound that much different from the cool country-folk-pop of her previous efforts like ‘Interiors’ (1990), 'The Wheel' (1993), ‘Rules of Travel’ (2003) and ‘Black Cadillac’ (2006). (Her last album, the 2009 classic-covers collection 'The List,' was a detour into more traditional country.)
The lyrics are typically strong, as well, like an anthology of 11 short stories based on or inspired by real life. The Memphis-born, Manhattan-based Cash tells of her own recent travels through the South ("A Feather's Not a Bird," "Modern Blue," the catchy mid-tempo "50,000 Watts"), pays loving tribute to family friends (Marshall and Etta Grant on "Etta's Tune"), and delves into her family's history ("The Sunken Lands" touches upon her father Johnny's childhood, while "When the Master Calls the Roll," co-written by Rosanne's ex-husband Rodney Crowell, is a ballad inspired by her ancestors who fought in the Civil War). All in all, just a solid and beautiful piece of work.
Limited Edition bonuses: One more Cash-Leventhal collaboration, "Your Southern Heart," is slight but charming, and haunting covers of Townes Van Zandt's "Two Girls" and Jesse Winchester's "Biloxi" tie in nicely with the rest of the album's Southern themes; but the main attraction is the lovely little hardcover book that the CD comes in, with track-by-track liner notes by Cash and Leventhal, and photos from both past and present.
on February 11, 2014
Every song on this CD is a treasure, even the two covers. The arrangements are uncluttered but creative with riffs that work. I live the lyrics book with her and her husband's comments on how they came to write both lyrics and melody. The thread that runs through the CD holds them all lightly entwined. I find myself humming different ones at different times, not sure which is a favorite. Hard to chose like trying to answer which child is your favorite. Rosanne's voice is in fine form, her subtle rhythmic phrasing is spot on. I learned a bit about the history of the south by looking up Money Row, the Sunken Lands, and have enjoyed reflecting on her use of 'modern blue.' Surely this will not be forgotten come Grammy season.