Album review: An insightful Rosanne Cash

Within the space of two years, Rosanne Cash lost her mother (Vivian Liberto), her father (Johnny Cash) and stepmother (June Carter), deaths she wrestled with on her two previous albums: 2009's "The List" and 2006's "Black Cadillac."

She takes the longer view in "The River & the Thread," her sterling new album informed by her nearly 10 years as an adult orphan in the world. In deeply personal and insightful songs, Cash assesses who she is and where she came from as well as what has been bequeathed to her by her parents and by geography on the road to figuring out what truly is her own.


The album's title stems from a line in the opening track, "A Feather's Not a Bird," in which she evenhandedly recognizes the forces that shape a person, with the understanding that it's up to each person how those elements direct their lives. Elsewhere, Cash finds space to wonder at what life means, a question she puts forth artfully in "World of Strange Design": "If Jesus came from Mississippi/ If tears began to rhyme/ I guess I'll start at the beginning/ It's a world of strange design."

She and her husband, guitarist-singer-producer John Leventhal, frame the songs in evocative instrumental settings that draw on the country, folk and gospel sounds of the Southern soil. It's an album we'll be looking at in December when it's time to single out the most powerful works of 2014.


Rosanne Cash

"The River & the Thread"

Blue Note

4 stars