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The River & The Thread is Rosanne Cash’s first record since 2009’s highly acclaimed release The List. With most all but Jimmy Buffett's “Biloxi” the songs are originals written by Cash and her long time collaborator and husband, John Leventhal not only is it a tightly woven affair, lyrically and otherwise. Plus, through her attention focussed on the lives of other Americas and locations much of the darkness often present in her music is forgone. Cash’s music is given a greater freedom as songs, and music too as blues of her birthplace (Memphis), her father’s (Johnny Cash) southern roots (Dyess, Arkansas), rock, gospel and swampy blues too merge. Old cotton plantations, murder and Mississippi Delta (the winding Mississippi being the river part in the title) also came into the equation. The thread comes from Cash's friend, Natalie Chanin who is a seamstress in Florence, Alabama; and who told Rosanne as she taught her to sow of how you had to love the thread. The term The River and The Thread gains a mention in the opening song of what is the 16th album (she also has four books to her name) from a truly remarkable woman. Don't be at all surprised it this piece of work doesn't earn her another Grammy! I wont.  


Many of the ideas for the songs came after Leventhal and Cash went south to help with the raising funds to purchase her father’s boyhood home by Arkansas State University, and spent time in the south. Visiting writer William Faulkner's house, bluesman Robert Johnson’s grave, the Dockery Farms; the plantations where Howlin’ Wolf and Charley Patton among many more worked and sang for their fellow workers on a saturday night. Plus, there is a diversion to America’s Civil War, and how like with her forebears that had family members fighting on both sides is the subject of attention on “When The Master Calls The Roll”. As for the playing, it is not only top class but inspirational with Rosanne Cash up for the challenge to make one of her best records, ever.


Musicians taking part in the venture include Cory Chisel. Rodney Crowell, Amy Helm, Kris Kristofferson, Allison Moorer, John Prine, Derek Trucks, John Paul White (The Civil Wars), Tony Joe White and Gabe Witcher (The Punch Brothers). Her opening piece, “A Feather’s Not A Bird” with its full-on bluesy tones followed by her beautiful singing of a mandolin etched “The Sunken Lands” (her father’s boyhood home and how the low lying farm, cotton fields et al were all under threat from flooding) and with a pumped up rhythm section, harmony vocal aided look at the world “Modern Blue” shows off her hip side. “The Long Way Home” is a reflective piece, and with her voice in great nick the listener can’t help but walk each and every step with her.


With 14-tracks in all it is difficult as to what sticks out and needs an early listen, but “World Of Strange Design” with its freedom of expression and flair strikes a blow for southern music. As funky guitar (rhythm) a little mystique has Cash in adventuress mood. Oh, yes you must take a listen to “50,000 Watts” as Rosanne huddles (with friends) round an old radio for music to warm the soul, it being a time, Sunday when radio was your main contact with the outside world and what a huge part was played by music. “Money Road” was pulled from Bobbie Gentry’s Tallahatchie Bridge and Money Road and abandoned grocery store where in 1955, a 14-year old Emmett Till reportedly flirted with a white woman. Which was to lead to his tragic murder and, like with a few more horrific deeds like it helped ignite the Civil Rights movement. While Marshall Grant who she called her 'surrogate dad' and was in her father's famed band, The Tennessee Two died recently is remembered in the song “Etta's Tune”. Grant's widow, Etta with whom Rosanne spent some time after his death is sure to be well pleased with the song and the listener too such being Cash's beautiful vocal performance (arguably the best on the record).     


                                                             Maurice Hope         

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September 2018

The Devil Makes Three
70 pts.
Chains Are Broken
New West
Jimmy LaFave
65 pts.
Peace Town
Music Road Records
Malcolm Holcombe
48 pts.
Come Hell Or High Water
Gypsy Eyes Music
Cody Canada & the Departed
47 pts.
Blue Rose Records
Jeffrey Foucault
43 pts.
Blood Brothers
Blueblade Records
The War And Treaty
42 pts.
Healing Tide
Thirty Tigers
Martha Fields
40 pts.
Dancing Shadows
The Weight Band
35 pts.
World Gone Mad
Must Have Music
David Olney
32 pts.
This Side Or The Other
Black Hen Music
The Black Sorrows
32 pts.
Citizen John
Blue Rose Records
Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis
31 pts.
Wild Wild Wild
Bloodshot Records
Hadley McCall Thackston
28 pts.
Hadley McCall Thackston
Wolfe Island Records
Nathan Bell
28 pts.
Er Gwaetha Pawb a Phopeth
Angry Stick
Curse Of Lono
26 pts.
As I Fell
Submarine Cat Records
Ryan Martin
25 pts.
Gimme Some Light
High Moon
Stephen Simmons
25 pts.
Locke Creek Records
Jason McNiff
23 pts.
Joy And Independence
At The Helm Records
Jim Lauderdale
23 pts.
Time Flies
Yep Roc
Kevin Gordon
23 pts.
Tilt and Shine
Crowville Media
Eliza Gilkyson
21 pts.
Red House Records
Boz Scaggs
20 pts.
Out Of the Blues
Concord Records
20 pts.
Among The Ghosts
Thirty Tigers
Melissa Carper & Rebecca Patek
20 pts.
Brand New Old-Time Songs
The Jayhawks
17 pts.
Back Roads and Abandoned Motels
Lori McKenna
16 pts.
Cn Records

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