I’m a big fan of Johnny Cash’s live concerts and prison sing-ins. He’s irreverent and performative and a whole bottle of fun. But when it came time for WFUV to start spinning songs from Rosanne Cash’s recent collection, “Black Cadillac,” I become irreverent myself. I’m a skeptic of genetic pre-disposing in the career realm.
Just because one of your parents could act or write or did crazy genius math doesn’t mean your nimble fingers will push the same pencil. Still though, I listened to the first single, Black Cadillac, with guarded care. I surely expected a blatant misuse and capitalizing on Dad Cash’s death. But then after hearing the second single, “Radio Operator,” I found I’d discovered a tastefully-done tribute album and worthy record unto itself.
Now I’m no music reviewer and can barely say why my Lucky Charms taste so yummy, but I ended up buying the cd and as the record spins this morning, these words bubble up: rich, velvety, thick with careful sentiment, a voice JC himself must have nurtured and encouraged from birth, seamlessly-woven moments that comfort and unsettle cleverly*, tempos and melodies pop bands steal from, an echo of dad’s legacy but absolutely her own blend of knowing-the-world, and ultimately, just plain elegance.
Mind you: this cd is not easy to find. I searched in four stores in Brooklyn and on Long Island, and ITunes doesn’t offer it up either. Cash surely isn’t making money off sales on this hard-to-find gem.
* It’s a strange new world we live in
where the church leads you to hell
and the lawyers get the money
for the lives they divide and sell
and the only truth believed in
is the one up on the screen
so we live out lives like fugitives
when we were born to live like queens
Yeah once we all were daughters
now we’ll never hear that name
and everything I could have learned
I just turned into a game
– lyrics from “Like Fugitives” by Rosanne Cash
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Amy King is the recipient of the 2015 Winner of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) Award. Her latest collection, The Missing Museum, is a winner of the 2015 Tarpaulin Sky Book Prize. She serves on the executive board of VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and is co-editing with Heidi Lynn Staples the anthology Big Energy Poets of the Anthropocene: When Ecopoets Think Climate Change. She also co-edited the anthology Bettering American Poetry 2015 and is a professor of creative writing at SUNY Nassau Community College.