As a kid I had what you would call a gypsy life-style. My dad was always changing jobs which meant we were always on the move - a habit I haven't actually been able to get rid of but now I move because I choose to. As a child changing schools and making new friends was quite stressful for me. I may come across as a bit of a show off but I am really quite shy. I also felt unstable as a kid and the only type of stability I had way back then was listening to my dad's records on his old player. I wouldn't say he had strange tastes for a man of his age in the late 50s and early 60s. He liked a bit of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis; he also liked Mario Lanza and two musicians/singers who stood out to me; were Nat King Cole; his voice always soothed me and made me feel calm and then there was this big, deep, gruff voice like the sound of a big bear hurtling through a forest - that was Johnny Cash. As a nipper I was always in awe of this giant of a man dressed in black. That fascination carried through until he died not so long ago and as the big man's door silently closed another one opened and standing in the doorway was his beautiful daughter Rosanne. Not only does she have a special beauty and poise of her own she also has a wonderful voice. Her tonal quality is superb - she always draws me in with her soft melodies and beautiful phrasing. Whenever I hear her I feel warm, snugly, a little bit sad and a little bit happy.
It's a tough job this girl has to do, to step into her Dad's shoes but I believe she has been very successful in showing the music world that she is a woman and musician in her own right and not living in the shadow of her father although there is no denying that the name 'Cash' will help. Of all the 11 studio albums she has recorded she is in total control - delivering every song like she believes in it and giving each song her original treatment.
The 12th studio album is a very special one and an absolute gem! The album is called, 'The List' and for those readers who don't know the history of father and daughter then I will tell you. The list exists - it is a list of 100 important country songs given to her by her father because at the time when she was growing up as a wilful teenager, being wild listening to the Beatles, I think Johnny worried that she might lose her country roots. He wanted her to treasure these songs and never forget them and he hoped one day that she would record at least one or two.
Well, the poor man can rest in his grave because not only has she recorded one or two but she has put her individual mark on 12 of these songs. To help her along the way and add a bit of grit, glamour and panache are a few guests - some of them you will recognise like Bruce Springsteen (really, I never knew that??!), Elvis Costello, Jeff Tweedy and Rufus Wainwright. Some of the songs you will recognise especially if you are into country music and probably will have heard her father's versions as well.
So has she done justice to these 12 country classics? On the whole I think the album works and I think she has tried to find something in the songs that other artists haven't been able to. Her voice is her strongest asset - it is very polished, soft, articulate and her timing is impeccable. To me, her voice is more suited to jazz and blues than country music. By this, I mean that she doesn't go into opera hysterics like some female country singers and she definitely doesn't whine. Also, the arrangements are much more intricate - at times a little too fussy for some of the numbers.
Let's take a look......
My favourite track is 'Sea of Heartbreak' and I am not just saying this because Springsteen plays along. It's a song, written by Hal David and David Hampton made famous by country singer, Don Gibson who recorded it as a single way back in 1961 when I was 7. I believe it reached the No 2 spot in the US counry charts. Why do I like it so much? Well, I like the song anyway especially the Johnny Cash version on his album 'Unchained.' But there is something special about Rosanne's perfect rendition - when she breaks off the main vocals and the guitar and harmonies kick in you feel that this is such a poignant song - you really do feel the pain, just as if your own heart has broken into two halves. The harmonies are truly lovely from Bruce- the drawl is still there but the toughness and gruffness of his vocals has slipped away for this track. His voice compliments the song and along with Rosanne's perfect voice makes this rendition a deep, rich and meaningful number. I have just remembered who did the harmonies on the Cash Senior's cover version - Tom Petty. Springsteen is much better (but then I would say that)!
Now on to a track that some of you will know - a Dylan song, 'Girl from the North Country.' A beautiful folk song that her father and Dylan recorded in 1969 together. How hip is that? Although Rosanne has gone back to the original and traditional folk sound similar to Dylan's which he released in 1963. Of course her voice isn't as rugged or as agitated as Bob's (whose is?) - again so pure and pitch perfect - it is quite haunting. I can't listen to this without getting goosebumps. A beautiful track.
Next one - a bluesy number - 'Motherless Children'. Good, old blues song covered by many artists over the years including Eric Clapton and Blind Willie Johnson but one of the best versions excluding this one has to be by the Carter family. Here, Rosanne's voice is upbeat, strident with a touch of melancholy but at the same time manages to drum into your head ' Motherless children have a hard time when their mother has gone.' Reminds me a bit of Carly Simon this one. Some fabulous blues guitar too - makes this one a winner.
Now a song for people who travel away from home and get homesick or have to leave home and can never go back because they have lost their homes - only two places I can really call home are Sheffield and Portugal and I don't think I get homesick for Sheffield any more but I still long to live by the sea and be back in Portugal and whenever I hear this song I just want to weep. Rosanne's voice is stunning; melancholy and full of soul - she really pours out the emotion on this one. Lovely.
When listening to this album I tend to listen to other musicians versions to compare. The song, 'Long Black Veil' is what you call a country classic written in 1959 by Dan Dill and Marijohn Wilkin and was recorded originally by Lefty Frizzell. It has been covered by many artistes including Cash Senior, Springsteen, and the Band. I like all these covers because they are all different. Bruce sings like he has a 20 beer hangover, raunchy and soulful, Johnny Cash delivers the song in his slow, meaningful plod and the Band are quite rocky in a country sort of way. So how does Rosanne do? She does really well and sings in the traditional country way - a lot like her Dad referring to the points of the saga with meaning and emotion.
She tells the story of the man who was wrongly accused of murder but had no alibi as he was sleeping with his best friend's wife. Rather than tell the judge the truth he would rather die.The Black Veil is a reference to the veil the woman wears as she visits his grave.
Now, the last of my favourites - 'Heartaches by the Number.' The Ray Price original number was recorded in 1959. It isn't a song I know so I've listened to the original a few times on youtube and I would say that Rosanne's version is very faithful to the original. Her voice does sound very countrified on this one and joining her in the background is Elvis Costello. Not a big fan of Elvis but his nasally voice goes well here and he doesn't try to dominate. Nice guitar and strings on this track.
There are a couple of weak tracks on the album and these are mainly traditional country numbers but perhaps I wasn't that keen on the originals anyway so I sort of close down when they are played. I was never a fan of Hank Williams even as a kid and was always pleased when his songs had finished twirling on the turntable. The Williams classic on this album is 'Take these Chains from my Heart.' She covers the song well and I think placed it amongst the 12 songs as a matter of respect for her father and his buddy. Admittedly there are some nice twangy bits of guitar and her vocals are fine but this song just doesn't do it for me.
Overall, the album is very good and covers some fine country classics along with a couple of bluegrass and folk numbers. It isn't her best album but it is in the top three. What it does show is that the 12 songs she has chosen for this album are durable and have stood the test of time. The album was produced by her husband, John Leventhal, who has worked with many artistes including Paul Simon, Elvis Costello, Dave Crosby and Dolly Parton. I like his snazzy arrangements on almost all of the songs. He is also a very good musician and plays some neat blues guitar and his keyboard playing isn't bad either.
'The List' is an album that always puts me in a strange mood. I feel relaxed after listening to it but very thoughtful and sometimes sad especially after the last bluegrass song plays out, 'Bury me under the weeping willow.' A true Carter family classic - beautifully sung by the eldest daughter of the man dressed in black.
The List is a smashing album, worth every penny and deserved to win the album of the year at the Americana awards in September 2010. You can pick the album up from Amazon for £4.99 and if you decide you like it then I recommend listening to 'Black Cadillac' another great album from Ms Cash.
This is only 12 of the 100 songs - looking forward to the other 88.
1. "Miss the Mississippi and You"
2. "Motherless Children"
3. "Sea of Heartbreak" (w/ Bruce Springsteen)
4. "Take These Chains From My Heart"
5. "I'm Movin' On"
6. "Heartaches by the Number" (w/ Elvis Costello)
7. "500 Miles"
8. "Long Black Veil" (w/ Jeff Tweedy)
9. "She's Got You"
10. "Girl From the North Country"
11. "Silver Wings" (w/ Rufus Wainwright)
12. "Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow"
*Dates of first recordings of some of the classics I have borrowed from Wiki*
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Miss The Mississippi And You
2 Motherless Children
3 Sea Of Heartbreak - Cash, Rosanne & Bruce Springsteen
4 Take These Chains From My Heart
5 I'm Movin' On
6 Heartaches By The Number - Cash, Rosanne & Elvis Costello
7 500 Miles
8 Long Black Veil - Cash, Rosanne & Jeff Tweedy
9 She's Got You
10 Girl From The North Country
11 Silver Wings - Cash, Rosanne & Rufus Wainwright
12 Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow