With the upcoming Grammy Awards on February 13, now is the time we start to look at the albums nominated in the category of Best Americana Album. The first such album in this series, is the 2009 Manhattan Records' release of "The List" by Roseanne Cash.
The story of how this album came about has been well documented over the past couple of years. Roseanne Cash, the singer-songwriter who happens to be the daughter of the iconic Johnny Cash, was touring with her famous daughter before breaking out on her own successful music career. Roseanne would receive a list of 100 essential songs in country music from her father, that Johnny stated was her "education" if she wished to be successful in her endeavor. The List is the first 12-song volume of what will ultimately be a re-recording of all 100 songs on Johnny's list to Roseanne. (There is no set date for the release of other recordings -- this is based on past interviews where Roseanne states she will eventually record all of the songs on the list.)
The songs contained on this album are timeless classics indeed. All of them are given first rate treatment by Roseanne, with stellar support from producer and musician John Leventhal. Among the standout tracks are the Hal David and Paul Hampton written, and made famous by another hit songwriter Don Gibson, "Sea of Heartbreak." The soft understated production mixed with guest vocals from Bruce Springsteen take this version of the classic song to another level. Elvis Costello contributes his unique and excellent vocals to another classic, written by the great Harlan Howard, "Heartaches by the Number", originally a hit for Ray Price.
I would say that the two standout tracks from this album are the interpretations of the Hank Cochran-written, made famous by Patsy Cline, "She's Got You" and the written and performed by Hank Snow, "I'm Movin' On." Both of these tracks receive excellent re-works in a more jazz forum, and the interpretation pays off. An honorable mention goes to the classic hit made famous by Lefty Frizzell, "Long Black Veil." This song has been recorded enough times over the years by a littany of artists, but Roseanne Cash nails this track. Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin, the writers of "Long Black Veil" would be very proud of this interpretation, as would Lefty.
When listening to "The List" one needs to understand that the intent of this recording is not to receive airplay at country radio and run the songs up and down the charts. Roseanne Cash has long-since abandoned those days of recording album after album that was made for radio. This album is the first in a series of projects to capture and preserve new interpretations of the 100 songs her famous father stated would be her education if she were to make a serious run at being a recording artist. For this first volume, Roseanne is at the top of her game and the top of the class.
"The List" is the first album to be profiled in our series of the Best Americana Album at this year's Grammy's and it is a very strong contender to win this award. Look for it in your favorite record store, or order online at Amazon.
Next up, Willie Nelson's "Country Music"