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Album review: Rosanne Cash's 'The List'

October 6, 2009 |  6:19 pm

Cash When Rosanne Cash was 18, her father, music legend Johnny Cash, gave her a list of 100 country, blues, folk and gospel songs he felt it vital that she learn to love. For her latest full-length release, she's chosen a dozen songs from that master list, and she brings the wistful mood that's infused much of her own writing to the material, which uniformly focuses on loss and heartache.

[Note: An earlier version of this post misspelled Cash's first name as Roseanne in the headline.]

The instrumentation is spare, yet elegant; this isn't the stripped-down music Johnny made with producer Rick Rubin in his final years, but it is often haunting just the same. Rosanne's voice plaintively pierces to the emotional heart of the traditional "Motherless Children," Merle Haggard’s "Silver Wings," Hank Cochran's forlorn "She's Got You" and, dipping into her extended-family's musical wellspring, A.P. Carter's "Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow."

Some high-powered friends pop in: Bruce Springsteen delivers a knockout duet on "Sea of Heartbreak," Elvis Costello goes uptown honky-tonk on Harlan Howard's "Heartaches by the Number" and Jeff Tweedy is appropriately gothic for "Long Black Veil."

The presence of such bright stars never feels like gimmickry, however. Their contributions serve only to enhance Rosanne Cash's renditions of songs that Johnny Cash understood to delineate cornerstone facets of American culture.

-- Randy Lewis

Rosanne Cash
"The List"
(Manhattan Records)
Four stars