Rosanne Cash Takes the Long View on ‘She Remembers Everything’

Rosanne Cash Takes the Long View on ‘She Remembers Everything’

The passage of time, tenacious love, a life on the road and inevitable mortality suffuse “She Remembers Everything,” Rosanne Cash’s new album. “From this point on there’s nothing certain/except there’s not many miles to go,” she sings in one of the album’s most upbeat songs, the country-rocker “Not Many Miles to Go.” And in “Everyone But Me,” a solemn piano hymn, she counsels, “Our strange and beautiful lies/Fade and turn to dust.” Cash is 63, and she is neither pretending otherwise nor regretting where she stands right now.

Her previous album, “The River and the Thread” from 2014, was a travelogue through the geography of the South and through her family heritage; she is Johnny Cash’s daughter. On “She Remembers Everything,” Cash contemplates the present as the outcome of a lifetime of choices, balancing memories and prospects, loyalties and second thoughts, repentance and acceptance.

Her voice finds equipoise in those mixed emotions. It seems transparent, always natural and confiding, never forced. The nearly unornamented way she carries melodies, shading some words with the tiniest bit of a quaver, comes across as both pensive and determined, and it lets her find mythic resonances behind everyday details.

Cash teamed with new collaborators, including T Bone Burnett and Lera Lynn, on “She Remembers Everything.”

“Crossing to Jerusalem,” written with her husband, John Leventhal, presents a marriage as a pilgrimage toward home, telescoping a long life together into brief verses: “The birthdays and the babies/The bourbon and the tears/Roaring like a hurricane/Tearing up the years.” Another of their collaborations, “The Undiscovered Country,” considers past and future generations (pairing, along the way, “Shakespeare and my father”) and longtime attachments, concluding that she is “thankful for what we don’t understand/the undiscovered country between a woman and a man.” In both songs, Leventhal plays all the instruments, melding the lucidity of a string band with the gravity of anthems.

On this album, Cash adds a new variable to her music after collaborating with Leventhal since 1993 as a producer and main songwriting partner. Half of “She Remembers Everything” was produced by Tucker Martine, who has worked with the Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens, My Morning Jacket, Neko Case and his wife, Laura Veirs. His tracks for this album, featuring Tim Young’s reverb-laden electric guitar, move Cash from Leventhal’s pristinely rootsy Americana into moodier, noirish realms.

That’s the tone of the album’s ambiguous and gripping title song. “She Remembers Everything” was written by Cash and the California-based songwriter Sam Phillips, who lends her voice to harmonies. Its mysterious central character is a traumatized woman who might be the narrator’s younger self or one of her victims. “Who knows who she used to be/before it all went dark?” Cash sings, and later, “I don’t know her now/my bitter pill, my broken vow/this girl who sings/she remembers everything.” Its measured beat and descending minor chords hint distantly at Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man”; its troubles stay vividly unresolved.

Cash has other new songwriting collaborators: T Bone Burnett and Lera Lynn. Playing the nightclub chanteuse in the second season of “True Detective,” Lynn first performed the doleful, minor-key songs that start and end the standard version of Cash’s album: “The Only Thing Worth Fighting For,” which announces, “Now you see my world in flames,” and “My Least Favorite Life,” which muses, “Lost now forever/my love and our sweet memories.” (A deluxe version of the album adds three bonus songs.)

While the songs face sorrows, they don’t capitulate to them. They place sadness alongside love and perseverance, the experiences of a long adult life; they savor consolations. “Particle and Wave,” written by Cash alone and backed by Leventhal, measures a lifetime against the laws of physics, immutable on a scale far larger than mere human existence. “Light is particle and wave,” Cash sings. “It reveals what we hold dear/and it slows so I can hold you near.”

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