Rosanne Cash


September 27, 2009 // 15 Comments

SeptemberThere’s a certain sadness to the month of September. The first hints of fall feel like the beginning of the end, as summer warmth tuns to autumn chill. Perhaps that’s why there are so many great songs about this time of year, nearly all of them tinged with sadness.

For me, “September When it Comes” is the most beautiful example of this theme. The track was recorded by Rosanne Cash and Johnny Cash just months before he passed away. The song eerily foreshadowed his death, which would come to pass that very September:

Rosanne Cash featuring Bruce Springsteen, “Sea of Heartbreak”

September 20, 2009 // 10 Comments

rosanne-cash_12Rosanne Cash previews her collection of classic popular songs with a spin on the Don Gibson classic “Sea of Heartbreak.” The impact of Cash’s music usually depends on her incisive songwriting, but she’s had success in the past with well-chosen covers.

Her take on “Sea of Heartbreak” works because of her restrained delivery, with the light and floaty arrangement suggesting that these are calm waters. The undercurrent of grief reveals itself through the guest appearance of Bruce Springsteen. His ragged vocal provides a strong contrast to Cash’s sweet delivery.

The resulting record turns a song that all of us have heard countless times before into something new. That’s always the challenge that needs to be met when covering a standard, so this is a promising preview of Cash’s upcoming set.

Beatlemania, Nashville Style

September 12, 2009 // 19 Comments

BeatlesI’ve been working my way through the Beatles Remasters that were released earlier this week, thoroughly enjoying myself in the process. As I listened to Help!, I heard Ringo Starr doing his best Buck Owens imitation as they covered “Act Naturally.”

It’s pretty darn cool that the Beatles covered Buck Owens, and plenty of country artists have returned the favor ever since. With the Beatles all over the media these days, it seems as good a time as any to look back on some of country music’s biggest and best takes on the Beatles catalog:

Rosanne Cash, “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” and “I’m Only Sleeping”

Cash is the only country artist to score a #1 hit with a cover of a Beatles song, as her take on the Beatles For Sale track “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” became her eleventh and final #1 hit in 1989. An even better listen is her take on “I’m Only Sleeping” from her Retrospective release. It doesn’t hurt that it’s a much better song than “Party”, pulled from Revolver, arguably the best album the Beatles ever made.

Nickel Creek, “Taxman”

This progressive bluegrass band sounds great on record, but you don’t really get the full experience of their talent until you’ve seen their live show. Perhaps all of those royalties from their platinum-selling debut album pushed them into a higher tax bracket, as “Taxman” – another Revolver highlight – soon became a staple of their live shows.

The Music of Our Parents

September 9, 2009 // 23 Comments

imagesOne of the albums that I’m anticipating most this year is Rosanne Cash’s album, The List, which comes out on October 6. Anything new from Rosanne Cash is eagerly welcomed by me, but this project is bound to be particularly special. The album will be comprised of 12 classic songs culled from a list that her father, Johnny Cash (obviously), gave to her as essential listening back when she was eighteen-years old. Since she had to choose only 12 songs out of a reported list of one-hundred, it’s pretty safe to assume that these 12 choices are among her favorites of the list that was lovingly compiled by her father, even if she did not fully appreciate them at the young age of eighteen.

2009's Remaining Release Schedule Comes into Focus

July 8, 2009 // 41 Comments

Thus far, 2009’s releases have done little to fire up the charts, with most of this year’s strongest-selling albums being holdovers from 2008. While Rascal Flatts, Jason Aldean, and Keith Urban have sold strongly, the chart remains dominated by last year’s releases from Taylor Swift, Sugarland, Zac Brown Band, Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, and Jamey Johnson.

So what’s left for 2009? Here’s what we know so far:

New Releases

  • Carrie Underwood will release her third studio album on November 3, with a lead single going to radio this fall. Her previous set, Carnival Ride, is nearing sales of 3 million, and produced four #1 singles and a #2 single, all five of which were certified gold in their own right.
  • George Strait will release Twang on August 11. It’s the follow-up to his 33rd platinum album Troubadour, a set which produced his 43rd #1 single and earned him the first Grammy of his career, along with a pair of CMA trophies (Single and Album)
  • Miranda Lambert is readying Revolution for September 29. Lead single “Dead Flowers” is struggling at radio, but that’s never slowed her down at retail anyway.
  • Reba McEntire’s Valory debut Keep on Lovin’ You arrives August 18. Lead single “Strange” is approaching the top ten.
  • Willie Nelson releases another standards collection called American Classic on August 25.
  • Brooks & Dunn’s new studio album streets on September 8, preceded by lead single “Indian Summer.” The duo’s previous set, Cowboy Town, was their first to fall short of gold certification.

Into the Circle: The Country Music Hall of Fame Changes Criteria

February 26, 2009 // 76 Comments

The Country Music Association, mere weeks after inducting its 2009 class, has announced a change in the Hall of Fame criteria. Per the CMA website: Three inductees will continue to be announced as new members of the Country Music Hall of Fame annually, each selected from a different category.  Beginning in 2010, the categories will be renamed and defined as follows: Veterans Era – This category will be for professionals that have been in the industry longer than 25 years. It combines the former “Career Achieved National Prominence Between World War II and 1975” (which was voted on annually) and “Career Achieved National Prominence Prior to World War II” (which was voted on every third year in rotation) categories into one. Modern Era – This category will be for professionals that have been in the industry at least 20 years, but no more than 25 years, and takes the place Read More

Six Pack: K.T. Oslin, Part Two

February 19, 2009 // 5 Comments

The following is a continuation of a guest contribution from Country Universe reader Cory DeStein, who wrote Part One. You can read that entry here. There have only been a handful of exceptionally literate female singer-songwriters that have become successful country music stars. K.T. Oslin was the second in a trio of such women, following Rosanne Cash and preceding Mary Chapin Carpenter. Cory did a wonderful job with the first Six Pack, noting six of Oslin’s most impressive compositions and performances.  My Six Pack is not a counterpoint to his, but rather a continuation of it. He already named many of my favorite Oslin songs, most notably “Hold Me” and “New Way Home.”  Thankfully, her catalog is more than deep enough for me to contribute six more to the conversation. I highly recommend seeking out all of her studio albums, but the twelve tracks listed by Cory and myself should Read More

Lambert, Cash Prep New Releases

February 10, 2009 // 4 Comments

Two of country music’s most critically-acclaimed artists are scheduled to release new discs later this year. While the gold-certified Crazy-Ex Girlfriend continues a formidable chart run, Miranda Lambert is finishing her third album in Nashville, tentatively set for a September release. Lambert hopes to complete recording before embarking on Kenny Chesney’s Sun City Carnival tour, where she’ll serve as an opening act starting in April. Frank Liddell and Mike Wrucke return as co-producers. Rosanne Cash is planning a fall release for her first album on Manhattan Records. Based on her father’s list of 100 essential country songs, the aptly-named The List will include a series of classics culled from his distinctive roster. Per Cash’s website: “…it is so liberating and so affirming of everything I’ve written and recorded to this point. You might not think that would be the case, as I am a songwriter, and have defined myself that way for my entire adult life, but this project ties all the Read More

Grammy Flashback: Best Female Country Vocal Performance

January 25, 2009 // 23 Comments

Revised and Updated for 2009 While the Grammys have honored country music from the very first ceremony in 1959, they did not begin honoring by gender until 1965, when the country categories were expanded along with the other genre categories. This is a look back at the Best Female Country Vocal Performance category. It was first awarded in 1965, an included single competing with albums until the Best Country Album category was added in 1995. When an album is nominated, it is in italics, and a single track is in quotation marks. I’ve often made the case that female artists were making the best music in the 1990s, and the Grammys did a great job nominating songs and albums that were ignored at the CMA and ACM awards, which is not surprising, given that those shows have so few categories that are actually for songs and albums. As usual, we Read More

Discussion: Creative Song Titles

November 19, 2008 // 20 Comments

I was listening in the car today to a track from the Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell album Begonias.   It’s a winding, bittersweet epic that clocks in at over seven minutes.   The title?   “Conversations About a Friend (Who’s in Love with Katie).”   It captures the content and mood of the song, rather than just taking a line from the chorus and making it the title. Though I can name countless pop and rock songs like that, I couldn’t think of too many country examples of this.   There’s Emmylou Harris’ “Prayer in Open D”, which is as evocative a title as it is a song.   Rosanne Cash’s “Blue Moon with Heartache” was actually a #1 hit despite its mysterious title, which captures the muddled, melancholy moodiness of the track. Then there’s my ring tone for a good two years, Dixie Chicks’ “Lubbock or Leave It.”   Since it’s the only upbeat selection Read More

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