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CD Reviews: Review of Black Cadillac by Roseanne Cash
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Click here to buy yourself a copy from Amazon.com Roseanne Cash: Black Cadillac (Capitol 2006)

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Let’s set the stage for this album by simply making note of to whose memory Rosanne Cash’s latest album, Black Cadillac, is dedicated: her mother (who died on May 24, 2005), her father (September 12, 2003), and her stepmother (May 15, 2003). It’s hard luck going from three parents to none in a span of just over two years, so, obviously, you thinking you’d better have your handkerchiefs at the ready, right?

Well, not as much as you’d think if you didn’t know that her father and stepmother were Johnny and June Carter Cash.

In fact, Rosanne found herself a little disgruntled at the outpouring of fan reaction to her father’s death in particular, noting to the L.A. Times that “I have gotten so many essays, paintings, screenplays, songs, poems — all about my dad. They come in the mail, and it got to a point where I couldn't even look at it anymore, I couldn't deal with it. I felt like saying: 'You had him my whole life, the world owned him my whole life, I had to share him with you, but you don't get him now.' I'll be honest, I felt resentful some days." Her reaction to all of the parental death in her life over such a short period of time was Black Cadillac. Some of the material finds Cash wallowing in sadness, certainly, but not all of it; part of the grieving process is coming to terms with the loss, which is what she does over the course of these thirteen songs.

“I Was Watching You” is probably the one that will get the tear ducts moving, as it’s Rosanne’s most overt farewell to her father:

"And all those years to prove how much I cared
I didn’t know it, but you were always there
Until September, when you slipped away
In the middle of my life on the longest day
And now I hear you say
“I’ll be watching you from above,
‘Cause long after life, there is love.”

Given the familiarity of her father’s voice, the listener can almost hear those words, too.

Ironically, the title cut, which opens the album with the lines, “It was a black Cadillac that drove you away,” was actually written six weeks before June Carter Cash’s death; nonetheless, it serves as a melancholy yet still uplifting tribute to both her stepmother and her father, opening with Johnny himself saying, “Rosanne, now, come on,” and closing with a light flourish of trumpets which, while not identical, are clearly meant to be indicative of the brass that powers “Ring of Fire,” arguably June’s greatest composition.

Cash comes across as angry on “Like Fugitives,” where she snaps, “Once we had a mother, but that’s all over now,” but, as she tries to come to grips with the reality of her parents’ deaths, the album finds her philosophically flip-flopping between what she’s been taught and what she truly believes. On “God Is in the Roses,” she sings of how God is not only in the petals and the thorns, but also in “storms out on the oceans, in souls who will be born,” and how “every drop of rain that falls, falls for those who mourn.” A few tracks later, however, on “World Without Sound,” she admits, "I wish I was a Christian / And knew what to believe / I could learn a lot of rules / To put my mind at ease."

Not to oversell Black Cadillac, but there will no doubt be more than a few therapists suggesting that patients trying to come to grips with the loss of a family member should listen to this disc. Given how many people felt as though Johnny and June were a part of their extended family, it might do well for their fans to listen to this record, too. By the time the proceedings end with “0:71,” seventy-one seconds of silence to pay tribute to the amount of years her father and stepmother had each accumulated at the time of their deaths, you’ll find that, like Rosanne, you’ve reached a certain degree of acceptance, too.

~Will Harris 


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