First a CD, now a book's on Cash's 'List'

Friday, February 12, 2010 at 12:05am

The relationship between legendary artist Johnny Cash and his daughter Rosanne was a complicated one, even though they dearly loved each other. There were periods of estrangement and other times when communication was strained at best.

Despite that, they shared numerous memorable experiences and unforgettable times. One of those periods came in 1973, when Johnny gave Rosanne a list of 100 songs he felt constituted tunes any young musician should know. They weren't confined to country either, as it included examples of gospel, blues and folk.

Cash's current CD, The List, which contains a small sampling of the titles from her dad's original document, has gotten widespread praise and a Grammy nomination, but that's just a small part of the story. Always Been There: Rosanne Cash, The List, and the Spirit of Southern Music (Da Capo) by noted Johnny Cash biographer Michael Streissguth provides vital additional information about not only the list, but the difficult interaction between father and daughter that Rosanne seldom discusses.

Streissguth had full access to Cash at her home in New York City, in the recording studio, and on her European concert tour. After initally bristling at some of his questions, she eventually opens up about many things.

Rosanne Cash not only talks about encounters and disputes with her father, but her relationships with stepmother June Carter and her birth mother Vivian. She also describes the evolution of her writing, playing and vocal style, offers her reasons for leaving Nashville, and discusses industry politics.

Her celebrated 1990 disc lnteriors gained universal critical praise and a Grammy nomination, yet proved the final straw in her decision to leave Columbia Records.

With an insider's knowledge and critic's eye for detail, Streissguth examines Cash's current husband John Leventhal's production style. He explains what he wants from her in a session and recording. Cash also reveals why certain songs were chosen and others omitted, and why she's refused to do many of her father's songs, either in concert or on CD, even though she loves and admires them.

As a fine mix of biographical examination, historical analysis, musical dissection and informal exchange, Always Been There provides excellent and vital information about the process of making an excellent CD. It also spotlights a father/daughter situation that had lots of love, but also its share of complications.