First Listen

WXPN Radio

The premier guide for new and significant artists in rock, blues, and folk - including NPR-syndicated World Cafe ®

Jingle Jams

Jingle Jams. An eclectic assortment of holiday tunes, from the new and quirky to the classic.

World Cafe Archives

Join David Dye as he navigates the World Cafe through performances and interviews with celebrated and emerging artists.

XPoNential Radio

24/7 Musical discovery. A unique mix of emerging and heritage blues, rock, world, folk, and alt-country artists.
Listen Live

First Listen

Enjoy previews of select, upcoming albums, in their entirety on FIRST LISTEN.

First Listen: Rosanne Cash, 'The River & The Thread'

Loading the player ...
It's tempting — and, really, accurate — to describe Rosanne Cash's new album as a literary effort. The singer-songwriter is also a published author, and her last album, 2009's The List, was a writer's game: Its 12 tracks abridged her famous father Johnny's 100-song lexicon of essentials, which he gave to his then-teenaged daughter as a legacy and a challenge. A set of originals, The River & The Thread features a similarly strong formal structure, but it expands where The List contracts.
Each song is rooted in the Southern soil connecting the old Cash homestead in Arkansas to the family's ancestral Virginia homeland, expanding to survey the family's artistic roots in Alabama and Tennessee. Some narratives are fictional, while others mine family lore. Each unfolds in a subtle arc made three-dimensional by Cash's introspective lyrics and the genre-dissolving blend of country, soul and torch songs that she and her husband and producer, John Leventhal, cultivate.
So go ahead, compare The River & The Thread to Lee Smith's hardscrabble domestic tales or historical fiction like Cold Mountain. But you can also approach the album as an interactive map, the kind that lights up when you touch it, revealing hidden details along the stopping points on a regional pilgrimage.
From the bluesy opening salvo "A Feather's Not a Bird" through the peaceful, countrified "Etta's Tune" and the majestic "When the Master Calls the Roll" — an original take on sentimental Civil War balladry that has Cash enlisting an inter-generational choir which includes her ex-husband (and the song's co-writer) Rodney Crowell, Kris Kristofferson, Tony Joe White, John Prine and Levon Helm's daughter Amy Helm — Cash matches styles to stories, showing her mastery of Southern music's many dialects. The contemporary "Night School" has a jazzy feel, but it also looks back to Stephen Foster; "50,000 Watts" is gospel with a spirited vocal by the young vagabond Cory Chisel. The overall effect of the album's gentle turns is rich and deep, like the rivers that define Cash's trajectory.
The most clearly autobiographical songs on The River & The Thread mesh seamlessly with Cash's fictions; at 58, she fully understands herself as both creator and character. Nothing feels forced or too clever. The delicacy of Cash's vision and Leventhal's production allows them to tell a Southern story that never gets lost in broad accents. "All you did was figure out how to take the long way home," she sings in her resolute, empathetic alto. On The River & The Thread, she lights the way so that we can follow.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.


Audio: The River & the Thread by Rosanne Cash

Click each song title for individual tracks, the last track is the album in its entirety.

Loading the player ...

Philly Local Covers 2014

Philly Local Covers 2014 Looking back on 2014, we asked some Philly local musicians to cover their favorite songs of the year. Listen to their studio recordings on The Key.

GoogleNewsViagra