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The River & the Thread by Rosanne Cash
It’s only mid-January, but I know Rosanne Cash’s wonderful new album, The River and the Thread (Blue Note, $13.98; deluxe edition, $18.98), will be at the top of my favorites list for 2014. Inspired by her family roots and her recent journeys in the South—especially in the Delta region—the album has powerful songs from beginning to end. Rosanne Cash was born in Memphis. Although raised in California, her Southern roots are deep, and informed much of her music. “When the Master Calls the Roll” is a Civil War narrative; “The Sunken Lands” tells about her father’s Arkansas childhood; “50,000 Watts” about the radio—sung with (and co-written with) Rodney Crowell. Every song is a gem, played by a wonderful band, led by Rosanne’s husband, guitarist, co-writer, and producer John Leventhal. I heard her play the entire album on stage at the Library of Congress in early December; each re-hearing only strengthens my admiration.
The CD comes in two formats: standard jewel box, and a limited-edition deluxe version, packaged in a small, 36-page book, with three bonus songs, two by Rosanne, plus a cover of Jesse Winchester’s “Biloxi.”
Last Sunday, there were insightful pieces about Rosanne’s Southern journeys which inspired her album in the New York Times Magazine and NPR . If you can find a copy of the recent Oxford American “Music Issue,” you can find an essay by Rosanne about her reflections on Memphis and the South. Lastly, she also put together a thoroughly annotated list of The Best Road Trip Songs for U.S. Route 61 (my former colleague Deb Morris led me to this piece).
NOTE: Rosanne Cash and her band will be playing at the Lisner Auditorium on Friday, February 14.
Sharon King and the Dap-Kings, Give the People What They Want (Dap-Tone Records, $13.99) – No one does old time soul revival like singer Sharon King and her crackerjack band, the Dap-Kings. They write original songs, but with a true feeling of 1960’s soul—whether it’s Motown, Stax, Muscle Shoals or Macon. The Dap-Kings bring the horns, the snappy snare, background vocals; above it all, Ms Jones wails and preaches with verve.
NOTE: Sharon King and the Dap-Kings will be doing two shows at the Lincoln Theatre on Monday and Tuesday, February 10 and 11.
Lucinda Williams, Lucinda Williams (Lucinda Williams Music/Thirty Tigers, 2 CDs, $18.98) – The self-titled that Lucinda Williams released 25 years ago on the Rough Trade label was a breakthrough. On that record, she wrote some powerful songs that other singers, then audiences, discovered: “Passionate Kisses” was covered by Mary Chapin Carpenter, “The Night’s Too Long” by Patty Loveless. Then folks heard Lucinda herself, singing songs like “Changed the Locks,” and discovered a powerful singer as well.
This 25th anniversary reissue, on Lucinda’s new label—out of print for 10 years—now includes a bonus CD: Live at Eindhoven, recorded in 1989, and six more bonus tracks.
Mary Chapin Carpenter, Songs from the Movies (Rounder, $16.98) – Singer and songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter re-recorded some of her own favorite compositions, this time accompanied by a large orchestra, with arrangements written by Vince Mendoza (who’s arranged for Diana Krall and Joni Mitchell). Mary Chapin). The “cinematic” approach works wonders on songs such as “I Am a Town,” “Come On, Come On,” and “Goodnight America.”
Bruce Springsteen, High Hopes (Columbia, $13.98) – Something new, something old, something old in new versions—all of these descriptions are applicable to Bruce Springsteen’s new album. Guest guitarist and singer Tom Morello (of Rage Against the Machine) is featured on some newly reworked songs (versions of “High Hopes” and “The Ghost of Tom Joad”). There are songs that Bruce has done live that finally get studio versions (“Dream Baby Dream”), and some tracks from the past, never before released.