Now in her late 50s, Cash’s recent musical output continues to focus on the rich heritage of American folk and country. Her last album, 2009’s The List, comprised songs chosen from a list of 100 that famous father Johnny gave her when she was 18, to expand her knowledge of the form. There are no covers this time round but, with guitarist husband John Leventhal, she’s co-written a collection of tracks that evocatively acknowledge the past.
While never claiming to be a concept piece, Cash describes the album as loosely thematic: “These songs all relate to the South,” she says, “the resonance, beauty and longing of the place.” Stories of Civil War soldiers in the battlefields of Virginia and New Deal-era Arkansas farmers (like her own grandfather) contribute to a wider cultural picture, as ambitious as a John Ford film.
As on The List, the playing is restrained and subtle throughout, such as the sprightly plucked guitars of Etta’s Tune, the ghostly prairie twang of World Of Strange Design and clipped chords of Your Southern Heart. It’s a record that her late father would have been enormously proud of, and the first essential country album of 2014.