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Rosanne Cash

The List – 2009 (Manhattan)

Reviewed by Robert Loy

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CDs by Rosanne Cash

When Rosanne Cash was 18 years old (and primarily interested in rock music) her father, Johnny Cash, gave her a list of 100 essential country and western songs, which included everything from Jimmie Rodgers to Bob Dylan, and now her 12th studio album contains Rosanne's version of 12 of those essentials.

It's being called a "covers" album, but that sells it short. Sure, she's faithful to the melodies and where the original probably can't be improved upon - as with the Patsy Cline classic She's Got You and Lefty Frizzell's Long Black Veil - the variations are slight. But where "The List" really shines is where Rosanne and her husband-producer John Leventhal find something in a song that was always there, but nobody ever saw before. Sea of Heartbreak was a big hit for Don Gibson, but the poppish beat was always at odds with the doleful lyrics, and now that she slowed it down (and added some killer back-up vocals from Bruce Springsteen), it really sounds like a song of heartbreak.

Besides the Boss, Rosanne gets some help from Elvis Costello, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Rufus Wainwright. Since there are still 88 songs left on the list, here's hoping that this volume 1 of many.