The circumstances that gave rise to Black Cadillac would test the resolve and talents even of a songwriter as fearless as Cash. Within a two-year period, Cash's mother, father and step-mother all died. Her mother, Vivian Liberto, the first wife of Johnny Cash, was an intensely private person, and her relationship with Rosanne, her oldest daughter, was extremely close. The album found its genesis in its title track, which, according to Cash, "was like a beacon, leading the whole process." Written six weeks before June Carter's death, a point at which no one suspected that she was even ill, the song seemed "foreboding" to Cash. To create a sound appropriate to her powerful subject, Cash worked with two producers: her husband and longtime co-producer and co-writer, John Leventhal (Shawn Colvin, David Crosby), and Bill Bottrell, who has worked with Sheryl Crow, Shelby Lynne and Linda Perry. Capitol. 2006.
Her father called her "The Brain," and while it's always been apparent why, Rosanne Cash will likely astonish listeners with the new level of writing and depth of feeling she brings to Black Cadillac
, her aural memoir of loss, ancestry, and negotiating ongoing relationships with the dead. Cash--who lost her father, Johnny; her stepmother, June Carter Cash; and her mother, Vivian Cash Distin, within a span of two years--makes it clear throughout this rootsy exploration of her past that while grief is unavoidable, faith and salvation eventually become its companion. And as the rockabilly "Radio Operator" points out ("I am calling like a friend / from my future / from your memory / and it never has to end"), the departed seldom really leave the living.
Cash's first album since 2003's Rules of Travel
, Black Cadillac
is darker than its predecessor, but with melodies often more complex and lyrics more stunningly poetic than anything its creator has conjured before, the album is more transforming than depressing, and exquisitely beautiful. In the achingly mournful, yet redemptive "I Was Watching You," she writes of waiting in heaven as her parents meet and wed, and of eventually joining them on earth, only to realize her parents now view life's events from her first vantage point. Other songs ("House on the Lake," "Burn Down This Town") frame more tangible real-life events, i.e., the Cash compound in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and the Man in Black's firebug tendencies. Producers John Leventhal and Bill Bottrell dot the lean, atmospheric, and genre-blending production with instrumental hallmarks that recall both the Appalachian sound of the Carter Family and the work of J.R. Cash (the horns in the title cut pay homage to those in "Ring of Fire"). But while elegiac, Black Cadillac
never turns maudlin or morphs into a tribute record to a fallen icon (the lawyers get skewered in one particularly clear-eyed passage). Instead, this extraordinary, intensely moving work is made up of dreamy and deeply personal pages from a psychic scrapbook, delivered on the cashmere-and-corduroy voice of one of music's purest and most visionary artists. --Alanna Nash Recommended Rosanne Cash
Seven Year Ache
King's Record Shop