Local Girl Still Swinging: Rosanne Cash debuts new album

Rosanne Cash debuts new album

r.cashBy Daniel Gelman  

Rosanne Cash, recipe daughter of the late Country singer Johnny Cash and his first wife Vivian Liberto Cash Distin, sick just released her latest studio “concept” album on January 14, try called The River & the Thread. It’s currently receiving critical acclaim.

This soulful local crooner seems to personify the restless, yet boundless creativity of her generation and its’ ability to continually reinvent itself. She was born in Memphis, raised in Ventura County, and lives in New York City. She survived a polyp on her throat, substance abuse, and brain surgery. She also writes short stories and children’s books, and is married to her second husband songwriter/guitar player Jon Leventhal.

Cash is known for her mellow natural voice, deeply personal lyrics, and unpretentious stage presence. Despite having a dad from Arkansas and a mom from Texas, she does not have a Southern accent, but many of her earlier works topped the “Country” charts. Music insiders would classify her sound as a blend of Country, Pop, Blues, Soul, and American Roots Music. She had a big hit called, “Seven Year Ache” in 1981 that characterized that unique blend.

Her move away from Nashville to New York City in the early 90’s and divorce from her first husband Country singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell marked her music’s transition to a more folksy and, minimally produced sound.

ventura.highThe Cash family moved to L.A. when Rosanne was three and to Ventura County shortly thereafter. Her Ventura roots endured, as her mom divorced Johnny Cash and married a local police officer. Her mom passed away in Ventura on Rosanne’s 50th birthday nine years ago. After graduating from St. Bonaventure high school in Ventura, Cash toured with her dad as a background singer. That was the start of her singing career that has now spanned 40 years.

In 2012 she wrote a song called Land of Dreams per request to promote tourism to the U.S.

The lyrics begin: “I heard you calling from the start, a river runs through both our hearts, a thousand shades of something new. I cannot wait to play for you.” The company Brand U.S.A. used the song in their promotional work.

According to Cash in interviews, her latest album tells stories of her travels through the South and pays tribute to her own roots. Most of the songs are a bit sad and dark, and allude to poverty or lack of hope. But most also make some reference to Memphis, or Mississippi, or some other Southern setting. She wrote all the lyrics and her husband wrote the music.

For example, the song World of Strange Design goes like this: “This room was filled with trouble and sacraments deceived, and I’m with you, we’re in the shade of his weeping willow tree. If Jesus came from Mississippi, if tears began to rise, I’ll have to go back to the beginning, in this world of strange design.” “There’s a real sense of place in this album,” said Cash in one interview online.

Cash’s life had its’ share of sorrow. She witnessed her dad’s decline into substance abuse and his betrayal of her mother while they lived in Casitas Springs. Add that to her own battles with health and an emotional divorce, and you can empathize with the sober view of life that often comes out in her work. But she cannot be pigeonholed as a pessimist. If you dig deeper, you will find a hint of hope and an acute awareness of the preciousness of life in her thoughtful compositions.

As she noted in one interview, “I feel like these are songs I’ve been trying to get to for a long time.” Her song Tell Heaven is a Gospel song about “the longing to find a place to put your burdens.”  It all fits into her concept. She explains that while a friend in Alabama was teaching her how to sow, she told Rosanne, “You have to learn to love the thread.” Cash took the comment metaphorically and decided that she had to learn to love where she was from, including the place, the past, and the people.


Daniel Gelman has been a Reporter/Writer for several years, specializing in News, Business, Feature, and Op-Ed.


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stefan djordjevic
stefan djordjevic
7 years ago

While the Dixie Chicks and countless other entertainers mock America or look to Europe for inspiration, this gal seems to be ready and willing to embrace her own soil.