The River & The Thread

Rosanne Cash

Blue Note, 2014

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


A rich tapestry of characters, mood, and Southern music, The River & The Thread marks a welcome return for Rosanne Cash, turning in her first album of originals in eight years and first overall album in five.

The album's depth is astonishing. In only 38 minutes, you feel like you've traveled through eight states and six generations. It fulfills the promise of folk music by being modern and literate while showing affection for the past, and elements of country, blues, rock and a touch of gospel all combine in this stew.

Kindred spirits and fellow artists Derek Trucks, Rodney Crowell, John Prine and even Kris Kristofferson make guest appearances here, but Cash and husband John Leventhal, who plays guitar, own the album. Her voice is a mix of sultry and world-weary, able to tell a story and project emotion with the ease and grace of a seasoned storyteller, as on "Etta's Tune" and the folk rock love declaration of "Modern Blue," an easy album highlight.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Cash gathers strength from God ("Tell Heaven"), her relationship and the richness of traveling and how different people and places enrich your soul and change your outlook. A theme of returning to the one you love after a long time away runs through the songs, especially on "A Feather's Not A Bird" and the very good "The Long Way Home," which adds a touch of strings as Cash paints an evocative picture of a life at the crossroads: "The Southern rain was heavy / Almost heavy as your heart / A calvalcade of strangers came / To tear your world apart / The bells of old St. Mary's / are now the clang of Charcoal Hill / And you took the old religion from the woman on the hill."

This contrasts with the upbeat country of "World Of Strange Design," which features Trucks on slide guitar and lyrics like: "We talk about your drinking / But not about your thirst / You set off through the minefield / Like you were rounding first." Cash recounts this with an almost detached ease, as she does with other characters like the couple in Mobile looking back to their youth, the lonely housewife in "The Sunken Lands" and the sad Civil War story in "When The Master Calls The Roll," in which the boy marries the girl and dies shortly thereafter in the war between the states. Cash's gift is that she makes you care about these people, makes you picture them in your mind.

Cash said in an interview that she would be content if she never made another album because she made this one, which is similar to what an athlete says when they win the Super Bowl and retire. It's not likely Cash is going anywhere – at least, we all hope not – because albums rich in character, mood and music are rare these days, let alone in the country world. But this is not a country album; it's an American music album, and it's a very good one.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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