First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2006, Volume 13, #1
Written by John Metzger
The loss of a close relative is enough to turn anyone’s life upside down; the loss of three close relatives is enough to tear one’s world apart. Over the course of a two-year span, between 2003 and 2005, Rosanne Cash buried her mother (Vivian Liberto Cash), her father (Johnny Cash), and her stepmother (June Carter Cash). Not surprisingly, their deaths inform her latest endeavor Black Cadillac. Throughout the collection, she mixes fond remembrances of her parents with songs that blur the lines among anger, sorrow, and acceptance, and although she grapples with her emotions in an attempt to find some semblance of solace, the set succeeds in transcending its morbidly depressing foundation. Indeed, it is, without question, the most personal and heartfelt outing of her career, and it’s accomplished in a manner that is universally accessible.
It helps, of course, that, both musically and lyrically, Cash has achieved significant growth — not only since she released her debut in 1979, but also since she issued 10 Song Demo, her stripped-down inaugural set for Capitol Records, in 1996. Although she consistently has drawn from a broad array of styles that stretch far beyond the confines of the Nashville scene, she never has managed to create an amalgamation that flows as effortlessly and organically as Black Cadillac does. On The World Unseen, she places her haunted lyrics within a fragile, mournful melody that appropriately hints at Bob Dylan’s Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door; she conjures a spiritual presence that hovers above I Was Watching You’s somberly reflective piano accompaniment; and she ponders her loss of faith on the Beatle-esque World without Sound. Elsewhere, Burn Down this Town simmers in the swirling darkness of its blues-baked fury, while the title track dovetails into a disorienting groove that feeds the horns from her father’s Ring of Fire into a maelstrom of emotion. On two occasions, Cash employs home recordings of her dad as a means of framing her work, and she concludes the set by ticking away the years of his life with a 71-second snippet of silence. These are not easy tricks to unveil, and in lesser hands — and, perhaps, earlier in Cash’s career — they might have felt like cheap gimmicks. Here, however, they effectively add to the intimacy of her material, and regardless of how one feels about the offspring of cultural icons, even her detractors would have to admit that from her grief a bold, new beginning was born. ½
Of Further Interest...
Black Cadillac is available
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box