It’s been five years since her last album “The List,” but Rosanne Cash is back with a new release that puts to rest any possible doubts about her continued relevancy as a highly and finely skilled musician. Let’s just cut to the chase: her velvety, assured vocals showcased against the backdrop of these 12 new, finely crafted Americana arrangements will surely hook you.

It’s always a good sign when an album’s first track gets you to turn up the volume, and such is the case with Cash’s new “The River and the Thread.” The opening track – “A Feather’s Not a Bird” – is a nice meld of country and blues, great guitar touches and all-around robust songwriting. “A feather’s not a bird / The rain is not the sea / A stone is not a mountain / But a river runs through me,” sounds the chorus. Some of the younger set in today’s music world could learn a thing or two from Cash about taking time to write memorable lyrics.

The eldest daughter of country music’s Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash, now 58, was born in Nashville but currently resides in lower Manhattan with husband, songwriter, guitarist and producer John Leventhal. Her past successes include the 1981 #1 hit single “Seven year Ache” from the album of the same name, her 2006 “Black Cadillac,” and “The List,” 12 tracks she released in 2009 chosen from a list of 100 songs Johnny Cash gave her when she was 18. “The List” went on to earn her “Album of the Year” from the Americana Music Association.

Lots to Love Here

From the new album, both “(Shades of) Modern Blue” and “50,000 Watts” are spunky and danceable. Her folksy, advice-giving “Tell Heaven,” “The Sunken Lands” with its spritely mandolin, and “World of Strange Design” – both showcasing Leventhal’s splendid Mark Knopfler-like guitar touches, are other favorites. Guitarist Derek Trucks also supplies the wonderful slide guitar on “World of Strange Design.”

“When the Master Calls the Roll,” a song Cash and Leventhal co-wrote with Rodney Crowell, is the longest track and the album’s epicenter. Its meandering and commanding arrangement features a catchy melody, some evocative fiddle and a strong, lovely chorus woven throughout, making this civil war story memorable, indeed. The vocals on the chorus include guest musicians Rodney Crowell, Kris Kristofferson and John Prine. Outstanding work, all.

When the Master Calls the Roll

Rosanne Cash joins Rob Sachs to discuss songs from her upcoming album, The River & The Thread.

A Portland Date, Perhaps?

Currently touring to promote the new album, Rosanne Cash’s upcoming whistle stops include Mississippi, New York and California. We hope she’ll add Portland to the list soon, so we can show her our appreciation with some good Portland love.

On Blue Note Records, “The River & the Thread” is available on amazon, iTunes, or on Cash’s website.

Cynthia Orlando
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