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Rosanne Cash - reviewed by The Guardian

Posted on 28 July 2010

Rosanne Cash – SummerTyne Americana Festival

24 July 2010, Alfred Hickling, The Guardian ****

When Rosanne Cash was 18, her father, Johnny, provided her with a list of 100 classic American country, folk and blues tunes and told her: “Learn these – that’s your education”. “Now here I am, 20 years later,” she says. “Okay then – 30. Oh, all right, almost 40.”

Despite becoming a formidable artist in her own right, it has taken Cash some time to come to terms with her father’s example. In recent years, she has been as busy writing fiction as making records. But the appearance last year of her album The List, a selection of the songs her father taught her, was a chance “not to be afraid of the legacy any more and accept what my parents gave me”.

What they gave her was a lot of songs with references to heartbreak in the title, such as Harlan Howard’s Heartaches by the Number, and Don Gibson’s Sea of Heartbreak. In anyone else’s hands, they might sound like a maudlin exercise in the worst kind of cowboy-booted conservatism, but Cash, making her sole UK appearance in support of the album, seizes them with the enthusiasm of a woman claiming her birthright. Though the band, led by Cash’s husband and producer John Leventhal, is exceptional, the most thrilling sense of tapping into the source occurs when Cash picks up an acoustic guitar and strums through the Carter family’s Bury Me Beneath the Willow, exactly as Helen Carter once showed it to her. She then follows it with the folk-ballad Girl from the North Country, on which her father dueted with Bob Dylan in 1969 “and made me the coolest 14-year-old on the planet”.

Cash concludes with some original selections from Black Cadillac, the bleak album that appeared after her father’s death, which she dedicates to her three daughters, one of whom has just released her first CD. Better listen up, girls – that’s your education.

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