27 Jan 2019

Rosanne Cash's new album She Remembers Everything

From New Horizons, 5:00 pm on 27 January 2019

In the first new programme of New Horizons for the new year, a newly refreshed William Dart features American singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash and her new album She Remembers Everything.

She Remembers Everything, cover image

She Remembers Everything, cover image Photo: Blue Note Records

Rosanne Cash, with husband John Leventhal on piano, gives us one of the ultimate ballads of wish-fulfillment from My Fair Lady. A tune that can become a terminally mushy affair when some get their vocal cords around it; but Cash keeps it wistfully connected.

And she's no cockneyfied Julie Andrews clone.

A quarter-century ago this performance was a wake-up call for me to take Johnny Cash’s daughter more seriously.

I’d never really engaged with her run of country-pop albums in the 80s, until 1987’s King’s Record Shop. There was a new bite and anger here, even if some of Cash’s own songs like 'Somewhere Sometime' seemed to be teetering on the brink of compromise. But the opening track, Eliza Gilkyson’s 'Rosie Strike Back', offered stark commentary on the ogre of domestic violence.

Three years later, with the beginning of a new decade, a song from Cash’s album Interiors tackled the same issue, this time focusing on the child as victim. And somehow its gentle, unruffled setting, with Michael Rhodes’ acoustic bass defining the sound, imbued the song with an even deeper sense of tragedy.

In 1996 Cash moved from the Columbia label, where her releases sat alongside those of father Johnny and moved to Capitol.

Her first release, titled 10-song Demo, was courageous. Gary Gersh, Capitol’s head honcho, spieled about it being a snapshot of a journey, a work in progress rather than the destination.

Cash was more down-to-earth. As a collection of demos, she commented, there wouldn’t be a single released, and no video. It was a kind of test-the-waters thing, put out more for artistic reasons more than anything else.

The song that caught my ear was 'If I Were a Man', which sets gender politics to an artless country waltz, with eerie keyboard trimmings.

In the 22 years since 10-song Demo, Cash has released just five albums, and I wouldn’t be without one of them. Each has its distinctive character and fits eloquently within the overall career journey that the singer has been making.

Her most recent is She Remembers Everything which appeared at the end of last year.

For an artist who reveals so much of herself in her writing, she certainly hasn’t held back here. At the age of 63, many of the songs inevitably take on issues of mortality and the eternal struggles that lie behind a life constructively lived.

'Rabbit Hole' is a response to brain surgery undertaken in 2007, inspiring what is essentially a joyous hymn to dreams and desires yet to be experienced and savoured. All wrapped up in music that’s as honeyed as you could ever want.

One of the strengths of Cash’s music has always been her astuteness in choosing and working with collaborators  — and some of the most memorable songs from She Remembers Everything are good examples of this.

Take, for instance, '8 Gods of Harlem', which is  a series of vignettes that considers the lunacy of America’s gun laws, with some inevitable observations on where that country has been going since the 2016 election.

Cash’s first guest is Kris Kristofferson, and the 81 years of experience that you can hear in his voice bring a dispassionate fatalism to his grim tale. Her second, Elvis Costello handles the jagged imagery of his verse with an almost athletic aplomb.

In an album that features a good amount of melancholy, it’s interesting to hear an opening riff, borrowed from the Mamas and Papas’ 'Monday Monday' being significantly tinted in the minor.

Not surprisingly, in an album by a woman who recently claimed that she has a lot to say – and it’s all from a feminine, capital F point of view – the recent #MeToo movement has left its mark here, especially on the title track.

'She Remembers Everything' was written with songwriter Sam Phillips, who adds the music to Cash’s words, penned some time before whole #MeToo movement gained traction. At the time of writing the song, she did consider it as the title for a new album, a ballsy title as she felt back then, sounding as if could be either threat or come-one. A title that history ended up making into a zeitgeist moment.

Listen to these songs and others by clicking "Listen" above for the full programme.

Music Details

'Song title' (Composer) – Performers
Album title

'Wouldn’t it be loverly' (Lerner, Loewe) – Rosanne Cash, John Leventhal
Columbia Records Radio Hour, Vol 1

'Rosie strike back' (Cash) – Rosanne Cash
King’s Record Shop

'This World' (Cash) – Rosanne Cash

'If I were a man' (Cash) – Rosanne Cash
10 Song Demo

'September when it comes' (Cash, Leventhal) – Rosanne Cash, feat Johnny Cash
Rules of Travel

'Black Cadillac' (Cash) – Rosanne Cash
Black Cadillac

'Silver Wings' (Haggard) – Rosanne Cash, feat Rufus Wainwright
The List

'When the master calls the roll' (Cash et al) – Rosanne Cash
The River & the Thread
(Blue Note)

'Rabbit Hole' (Cash) – Rosanne Cash
She Remembers Everything
(Blue Note)

'8 Gods of Harlem' (Cash) – Rosanne Cash
She Remembers Everything
(Blue Note)

'She Remembers Everything' (Cash, Phillips) – Rosanne Cash
She Remembers Everything
(Blue Note)

'Crossing to Jerusalem' (Cash, Leventhal) – Rosanne Cash
She Remembers Everything
(Blue Note)

'Put a Woman in Charge' (Mo) – Keb Mo, feat Rosanne Cash
(Kind of Blue)

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to New Horizons

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)