The River & the Thread (Blue Note)
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Feb. 21, 2014
Rosanne CashThe River & the Thread (Blue Note)
Rosanne Cash produced some of her best work over the past decade, songs wrought in the specter of grief and memory after the loss of her mother, outlaw father, and step-mother. 2006's Black Cadillac grappled with those deaths, while 2009 covers LP The List is a celebration of the personal impact of her dad, Johnny Cash. The River & the Thread now finds the veteran Nashville singer-songwriter reconciling her Southern heritage, crafting songs of immense detail and emotion that rake across the roads of her upbringing. Her voice is meditative, a calming hum even on more uptempo rockers like "Modern Blue," and given to vivid images like those arising from "The Sunken Lands." Stylistically, the album moves easily through blues and country-folk roots, but with a pristine polish aided by multi-instrumental contributions of spouse John Leventhal. "A Feather's Not a Bird" floats poetically and deeply literate, while the exceptional "Etta's Tune" weaves in ode to longtime Johnny Cash bassist Marshall Grant, and "World of Strange Design" echoes the metaphysical Southern mystery of Jim White. Closing with Civil War-set ballad "When the Master Calls the Roll," and Emmett Till-inspired "Money Road," Rosanne Cash caps a trilogy of reflection with poise and insight, a complex cultural legacy moved distinctly forward.