Rosanne Cash's The List is not the typical covers album. It features the singer-songwriter's contemporary interpretations of twelve classics selected from a list written for and passed down to her by her father, the legendary Johnny Cash.
Johnny Cash wrote this list of 100 Essential Country Songs in the summer of 1973. Rosanne, eighteen and eager to be a musician, accompanied her father on tour. While riding in the back of a tour bus, the two discussed country songs and, as Ms. Cash tells us in the liner notes, her father "became alarmed that I was so steeped in the rock and pop music of my time that I did not understand the vital importance of the songs that were my musical genealogy ..." Cash intended the list to serve as a template for his daughter's musical education, and it spans American genres: country, gospel, folk, Appalachian, rockabilly, and Southern blues. But Ms. Cash was not yet ready to fully embrace her father's legacy, and for the next thirty-five years she forged her own identity as a successful performer, songwriter, and author.
With The List Rosanne Cash comes full circle, and redefines herself as one of country music's finest interpreters. She connects past and present with complex performances of songs by Hank Snow, Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, A.P. Carter, and other celebrated songwriters. Husband and producer John Leventhal provides subtle arrangements that showcase her soulful vocals. Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Jeff Tweedy, Rufus Wainwright, and daughter Chelsea Crowell each make an appearance, but the album is pure Cash.
With her clear alto, Ms. Cash bends each song to her will. And as on her own albums, she excels at the melancholy moments. With Hy Heath and Fred Rose's Take These Chains from My Heart, for instance, she steers clear of Hank Williams' sharp, honky tonk pleas. Instead, Ms. Cash relies on the power of understatement. She gently asserts, "set me free," with just a touch of a vibrato that only hints at the deep sorrow running through her words. Soft percussion, Wurlitzer piano, and a lovely fiddle solo complete the portrait of heartbreak.
Ms. Cash sheds the heartbreak on the next track, I'm Movin' On, and we are rewarded with a number that is all blues and bravado. Like her father before her, Rosanne Cash defies categorization. At times playful, sultry, wistful, but always compelling, her voice allows these timeless lyrics to resonate. The List is both a reflection of Ms. Cash's musical heritage as well as the representation of an artist at the height of her artistic performance.
If you haven't picked up the album yet, and are drawn in by Jane's review, I've got a CD with (potentially) your name on it. All you have to do is leave a comment (or email me) with your name and email address and you'll be in the running for the copy that I have to give away. I'll pick a winner next Mondayish and notify them via email. In the meantime, enjoy one of the tracks from the album as well as the original.
and the original: