The river & the thread [sound recording] / Rosanne Cash.

Cover image for The river & the thread
BIB ID#1703509
Call# CD

The river & the thread

1 audio disc : CD audio, digital ; 4 3/4 in.
Title from container. Compact disc. Lyrics on insert. A feather's not a bird -- The sunken lands -- Etta's tune -- Modern blue -- Tell Heaven -- The long way home -- World of strange design -- Night school -- 50,000 watts -- When the master calls the roll -- Money road. Performed by Rosannne Cash.

Reviews and Notes

Music and Video Summary ->  Nearly eight years after Rosanne Cash last released a set of original songs, 2014's The River & the Thread finds her in a reflective mood, and just as 2009's The List saw her looking back with a set of classic songs recommended by her father, the late country legend Johnny Cash, The River & the Thread is dominated by thoughts and emotions that occurred to her as she was involved in a project to restore Johnny's boyhood home. This doesn't mean that Cash has returned to the spunky, country-accented sound of her most popular work -- this is still Rosanne Cash the mature and thoughtful singer/songwriter we've come to know since the late '90s, and the tone of this album is unfailingly literate. But though this music isn't country, it's certainly Southern, and road trips from Alabama to Tennessee, visits to the Tallahatchie Bridge and Money Street, and vintage gospel music on the radio embroider these songs as Cash immerses herself in the places that were once close to home as if she's reuniting with long lost family. And two of the songs cut especially close to home -- "Etta's Tune" was written in memory of Marshall Grant, a longtime family friend and member of Johnny Cash's band, while "When the Master Calls the Roll" is a tale of love torn apart during the Civil War that Cash wrote in collaboration with her former husband Rodney Crowell and current spouse John Leventhal -- and they rank with the best material on the album, genuine and heartfelt, and written and performed with a genuine passion that never sinks into sentimental histrionics. Just as Cash's songs are crafted with a subtle intelligence, her vocals here are superb, getting to the heart of the lyrics without painting herself into a corner, and the production is rich but elegant and to the point. Rosanne Cash hasn't been especially prolific in the 21st century, and at under 40 minutes, she wasn't crafting an epic with The River & the Thread. But she's learned to make every word and every note count, and this album confirms once again that she's matured into a singular artist with the talent and the vision to make these stories of her travels in the South come to vivid and affecting life. ~ Mark Deming

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Locationsort iconCall NumberItem TypeVolumeBarcodeStatus
Central Media CenterCDAdult Compact Disc, Music0228567405813Available
Central Media CenterCDAdult Compact Disc, Music0228567405821Available

Marc Record

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$a River and the thread $h [sound recording]
$a Hollywood, CA : $b Blue Note, $c [2014]
$a 1 audio disc : $b CD audio, digital ; $c 4 3/4 in.
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$a Title from container.
$a Compact disc.
$a Lyrics on insert.
$t A feather's not a bird -- $t The sunken lands -- $t Etta's tune -- $t Modern blue -- $t Tell Heaven -- $t The long way home -- $t World of strange design -- $t Night school -- $t 50,000 watts -- $t When the master calls the roll -- $t Money road.
$a Produced and arranged by John Leventhal ; co-produced by Rick DePofi.
$a Performed by Rosannne Cash.
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I first heard Rosanne Cash’s “Seven Year Itch”, which fit my acceptance of country as a young man from a small town with one radio station that had a music standard similar to the dive bar in The Blues Brothers: “We play both kinds of music here, Country & Western.” I had already swerved recklessly into punk, so my country had to be rockin’. Both Cash & Dwight Yoakam fit that mold more than Randy Travis or George Strait. However, I lost touch with Cash until I heard her album, “The List”, which is her choice of songs from her dad’s 100 greatest songs list. However that album didn’t strike me the way “The River & the Thread” has. First of all, this isn’t just a Cash album, but a collaboration with her husband, John Leventhal, who has played nearly all the music and co-wrote the songs with Cash. His playing sounds so natural & spontaneous, that the production feels like a sit-in session in someone’s living room. The first song with its refrain of “a feather is not a bird, rain is not the sea, a stone is not a mountain, but a river runs through me”, has a raw beginning with a guitar playing four minor notes in a stepping pattern, but it is Cash’s voice of longing & the lyrics of wandering along the Mississippi that sets the tone for the whole album, of a region she loves & constantly travels, at least in her memory. The stark image of five cans in the dust begins & ends the song “The Sunken Lands” of an unsatisfied woman who finally leaves with the rising tide of the river, that flows like the shuffle of the backbeat. Another woman “Etta’s Song” praises the man who stays with her despite the wandering, drinking & pills. The refrain of “What’s the temperature, darlin’?” a question that remains rhetorical at best. “Modern Blue” details the dangerous curves of relationships which keeps Rosanne’s “head down” and “my eyes on you.” as she recognizes the many shades of modern blue. Again, as she’s traveled to Barcelona & Paris, she finds herself back in Memphis. “Tell Heaven” with its longing & suffering guitar unanswered except for the refrain’s suggestion that doesn’t necessarily sound like it will be answered. “The Long Way Home” returns to the wanderlust that has found it’s roundabout way back to the South, to “Dark highways and the country roads” that “don’t scare you like they used to”. There is a sense of acceptance, something that resonates with someone who has a mixed love of his homeland at best, but loves the memories of the dust, silence, and space that my home in New York lacks. “World of Strange Design” again offers a bleak spiritual landscape, one where nothing fits into the old ways of thinking, but to find an answer, you must “start at the beginning”. The music has a ancient feel like a Charley Poole guitar line, but Cash’s voice sings lyrics that are anything but ancient in their imagery. This is a new place, where old ideas find purchase only in the music, not in place or spirit. On the other hand, “Night School” provides the most nostalgic notes of the album, as Cash sings of Mobile and a lost love, where the lessons are of love and loss. The string arrangement here with the cello providing an answer to Rosanne’s memories. “50,000 Watts” finds a place of hope, where prayers broadcast redemption across the walking pace of the guitars. If she ever channels her father, it must be on “When the Master Calls” with its story of random love, defiant devotion, early death and a lifetime of mourning as a young woman watches her new husband take his father’s rifle and follow where the “tides demand”. It has Johnny’s sense of fate that will happen when “the master calls the roll”. The album ends with “Money Road” a song that speaks of the costs of searching and striving, perhaps best reflected in the line “But what you seek is seeking you.” The bluesy guitar and Rosanne’s voice make the point that this isn’t just “Country and Western” but American music, a sound that feels like my memories of my youth, of many road trips driving down dark highways, watching rainstorms blow up across the wide plains of my youth. Americana is a term I’ve used to categorize music as varied as Tom Waits and the Neville Brothers. “The River & the Thread” fits in there nicely.