Review: Rosanne Cash explores her Southern roots

STEVEN WINE Associated Press Published:

Rosanne Cash, "The River & The Thread" (Blue Note)

The songs on "The River & The Thread" rock like a cradle, and the rhythm rings true while Rosanne Cash explores her roots.

The mesmerizing musical journey takes her to Arkansas, the Mississippi Delta and the Gulf Coast as Cash encounters the ghosts of Robert Johnson, Emmett Till, AM radio and her Civil War ancestors. There's also the repeated tug of Memphis, where Cash was born around the time her father cut his first record.

This Southern music stretches far beyond the confines of country -- that's a violin on "Night School," not a fiddle. The 11 songs blend Tennessee flattop twang with gospel, the blues, and even hints of jazz while building a bridge from Dust Bowl ballads to Dusty Springfield pop.

Covering so much territory takes time, but Cash makes it well worthwhile. In these days of downloads, "The River" offers an eloquent argument for albums. Her husband and producer, John Leventhal, pulls it all together and ensures the set's considerable ambitions don't overwhelm the immaculate arrangements. There's no hot pickin' here; instead, Cash's marvelous material is the star as she shares her story of rediscovery.

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