Review: “The List,” Rosanne Cash

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Rosanne Cash is one of those rare artists that sounds like she’s sitting in your living room playing just for you. Her voice is confident, sexy, and one you can count on to make you feel better when times are tough. On her latest collection, The List, she honors her father Johnny Cash by performing 12 songs (13 if you get it off iTunes) from a list he gave her when she was 18 years old. It contained what he called the “100 essential country songs.” Everything from folk to protest songs to delta blues to gospel to Appalachian music was on that list. I am so glad that she decided to share this piece of her history with us because this disc is nothing short of outstanding.

As she describes it, she was traveling with her father on his tour bus and he kept asking her if she knew this song, or that song. The more she answered “no,” the more puzzled he became that she didn’t know her own “musical genealogy.” He spent the afternoon making the list and told her that it was her “education.” She learned them, but never recorded them. It wasn’t until a few years ago after he passed away that she realized her father wasn’t just giving her a list, but a piece of his heart and soul. It was at that time that she knew she had to lay them down.

She performs a stellar duet with Bruce Springsteen on “Sea of Heartbreak.” “Motherless Children” is as good and hearbreaking as it gets. Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, who dueted with Cash on her hit “Seven Year Ache” a few years ago, gets behind the mic for an outstanding version of “Long Black Veil.” “I’m Movin’ On” is haunting and sexy, Merle Haggard’s “Silver Wings” is duet with Rufus Wainright and that is both moving and sad. “Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow” sounds like she’s under a tree on a breezy Tennessee day pining for the man who is looking for someone else. Excellent. Elvis Costello joins Cash on Harlan Howard’s the honky tonk tune “Heartaches By The Number” and she knocks Patsy Cline’s hit “She Got You” out of the park.

I don’t know if Johnny Cash ever thought his daughter would record these songs when he gave her the list, but if he was still around, he would be damn proud of her. For me, this ranks right up there with Steve Earle’s “Townes” as the best collection I have heard all year.

You can stream the entire album at NPR

NPR interview with Rosanne Cash talking about “The List”

Rosanne Cash Official Website

3 Responses to “Review: “The List,” Rosanne Cash”

  1. Well said.

    While I was listening to “The List” the other day, it occurred to me that not only was that list of songs a good education for young Rosanne, it would be a good education for everybody. We talk about the “great American songbook” and those standards by Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Irving Berlin, etc., as being critically important to American musical history but songs like these are just as great, just as American, and just as important.

    And that’s the best version of “Heartaches by the Number” this side of Ray Price, too.

  2. she was great in that interview with NPR. I heard that then found you’d covered the release too. Now I gotta buy the dang thing.

  3. Same here. Heard her on NPR the other morning and was intrigued. The same day a friend handed me a copy. It’s really well done. I loved her line in the NPR interview re: Sea of Heartbreak: “I couldn’t get anybody good, so I got Bruce.”

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