First Appeared in The Music Box, May 2010, Volume 17, #5
Written by John Metzger
Mon May 10, 2010, 06:30 AM CDT
When she joined her father on the road in 1973, Rosanne Cash had not yet decided if she was going to pursue a career in the music business. Nevertheless, in an attempt to provide her with a proper education in the constructs of writing country songs, Johnny Cash handed his daughter a list of 100 compositions that he felt were essential that she know. In the intervening years, Rosanne Cash has gone to great lengths to distance herself from her father’s legacy. In the process, she has learned to how to take what he had taught her and use it to develop her own voice as a songwriter and performer. As Cash’s career has progressed, it has become clear that the document her dad had given her was increasingly influential in shaping her approach.
In recent years, Cash has begun to connect the dots between her dad’s canon and her own. He, along with Cash’s mother and stepmother, all passed away within a relatively short period of time. Cut in the wake of their deaths, Black Cadillac was an emotional collection that was filled with mourning and self-reflection. Cash’s latest set The List is an aptly titled outing that emphasizes 12 of the tunes that her father had wanted her to learn. Whether it is the result of death or heartache, all of the material on The List addresses the notions of loss and longing. Rather than feeling dark and desolate, though, the endeavor exudes a comforting air that seems to emanate from Cash’s recuperation.
As one might reasonably expect, the selection of songs that Cash chose to include on The List is splendid, even if none of them are particularly shocking. Each track is a finely crafted specimen that highlights elements of her father’s output as well as her own. Cash breezes through jangly renditions of Heartaches by the Number and Sea of Heartbreak, while Silver Wings is transformed into a slice of early ’70s pop. Elsewhere, she embraces the blues-y currents of Motherless Children. She also adorns Jimmie Rodgers’ Miss the Mississippi and You with the sort of gentle, jazzy arrangement that Les Paul might have employed in his heyday.
Throughout The List, Cash is joined by a handful of special guests; Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Jeff Tweedy, and Rufus Wainwright all make appearances on the set. For the most part, however, they remain in the background, providing merely minimal support. In other words, this is Cash’s show, and she makes the best of it in ways that allow her to highlight her skills as a vocalist and interpreter.
Still, like most collections of cover songs, there are moments when The List falters. At times, the music is rendered with such politeness that it fails to reflect the emotional tone of the lyrics that Cash is singing. Although an air of longing permeates Girl from the North Country, and a sense of weary sorrow clings to 500 Miles, neither track approaches the strength of their familiar counterparts. Part of the reason for this might stem from the time that has passed, which understandably has given Cash an opportunity to process and accept her parents’ fates. No longer grieving, she instead is taking comfort in the knowledge that they left behind. The List, then, gives her room to share her heritage with her fans.
Of Further Interest...
The List is available from Barnes & Noble.
To order, Click Here!
1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2010 The Music Box