Rosanne Cash’s latest completes a body of self-reflective work beginning with 2006’s dark beauty Black Cadillac, the homage to her and father’s musical bond with 2009’ s “The List” and now with “The River & the Thread” Cash get’s back to her genealogical, and spiritual, roots.
Cash’s early success hinged tacking country music and giving it a fresh pop spin that allowed her to break into the charts dominated by Willie Nelson, Conway Twitty and Ronnie Milsap.
The River & the Thread, she does much of the same. Americana’s expansive style fits well with her current range of material. Reflecting a deeper level of artistry and honesty those qualities shine brightly on songs like opening track “A Feather’s Not a Bird,” where a Creedence-style swamp groove runs deep into the Southern art of blurring fact and myth, reminiscent of Bobbie Gentry‘s “ode to Billy Joe.”
The songs continues to travel across space and time. To cotton fields in “The Sunken Lands,” where back-breaking work parallels the humiliation of a woman suffering under a cruel man. Then down a hot, reverb-shimmering asphalt road to Memphis where the achingly beautiful “Etta’s Tune,” where a Southern summer simmers across past regrets.
“World of Strange Desire” is a boot-stomper that echoes the mythology gumbo of the album opener
Part of her journey that led to this sterling release were actual travels. One stop was to the famed Muscle Shoals recording studio and Greenwood Mississippi where Robert Johnson’s grave is located.
I only have these nits to pick. The album, at 38 minutes, is too good to be this brief. Also the arrangements fill the space with excellent instrumentation to a point that there’s little room for Cash to settle in a quiet place and let her expressive voice build any level of intimacy.
Quibbles aside “The River & the Thread” is a bountiful work from a soulful traveler.