Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Top 50 Albums, #41 - "Black Cadillac," Rosanne Cash

I. I bought my first Rosanne Cash album when I was 19 years old, and I’m not ashamed to admit the reason I bought it was…well, on that cover she looked pretty hot. God knows that’s not the politically correct thing to say, but in my defense, I bought a lot of albums back in those days that I would call “impulse buys.” And if you’re going to buy an album on an impulse…probably time to stop before I get myself into real trouble. The record inside the cover was fairly standard country fare, but even then you could tell that this was an artist just waiting to make that leap to the next level. And to hear her trading vocals with Bobby Bare on “No Memories Hangin’ Round” was to hear a young woman who deserved to be mentioned in the same breath as her very famous father.

In the summer of 1981, I was captivated by Rosanne’s song “Seven Year Ache.” It was one of those songs that I could listen to for hours, back to back, and never ever get tired of it. To this day, it remains one of my favorite songs.

All of which is to say that Rosanne Cash and I go a long way back. I can say without guilt that she was one of my favorite artists even before her father became a part of my personal pantheon. From “Rhythm and Romance” and “King’s Record Shop” in the 1980s to “Interiors” and “The Wheel” in the 1990s, it was clearly evident that Rosanne was more, much more, than just the continuation of a family tradition. She was someone who was destined to make a mark of her own.


The key to understanding “Black Cadillac” is this photo, and the dedications that appear below it. From left, they read:

In memory of:

June Carter Cash
June 23, 1929-May 15, 2003

John R. Cash
February 26, 1932-September 12, 2003

Vivian Liberto Cash Distin

April 23, 1934-May 24, 2005

It is an album dedicated to the mother, father and stepmother whom she loved dearly, and that love comes across in every track, every note played on the album.

But what makes the album special is that this is not a blind love – it is an unconditional love, but one that is entirely honest and heartfelt. It doesn’t brush aside the difficulties and the heartache that crossed the lives of those involved, it tackles those issues head on and comes out the other side stronger for it.

I knew this was a special album from the first time I heard it; I remember sending friends and colleagues an email in which I compared it to classics like “Beggars Banquet” and practically begged them to go out and buy it. And five years later, nothing has made me change my mind. It’s a musical triumph as much as it is a lyrical and spiritual one; the decision to bring in Bill Bottrell to produce half of the tracks was an inspired one. If Rosanne’s late-era albums have had any weaknesses, it’s been with the production of her husband John Leventhal – which at times threatens to take all of the mystery, all of the danger, out of the music. But coupled with Bottrell, it’s as if Leventhal was inspired, and the album is seamless – if you didn’t read the credits, you might be hard-pressed to guess which producer was responsible for which song.

It’s not every artist who can turn tragedy – in the form of death – into triumph and renewal. Rosanne Cash is that rare artist who can achieve such heights.

Black Cadillac, Rosanne Cash (2006)

Tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 produced by Bill Bottrell
Tracks 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 produced by John Leventhal

Black Cadillac/Radio Operator/I Was Watching You/Burn Down This Town/God Is In The Roses/House on the Lake/The World Unseen/Like Fugitives/Dreams Are Not My Home/Like a Wave/World Without Sound/The Good Intent

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Jeff, I like your review. This is one of my favorite albums, and I have been listening to it alot lately. I think I told you I just read her autobiography, it gave this album much more meaning. I think my favorite song right now is "God is in the Roses."