On Rosanne Cash’s first album in five years, She Remembers Everything, the Grammy winning songwriter explores themes of time, death and suffering. Her world-weary wisdom is channeled into songs of unflinching realism and stark truths.
The album begins with ‘The Only Thing Worth Fighting For’, original released by co-writer Lera Lynn on the True Detective soundtrack. Rosanne’s version is similarly brooding, with the pain of love laid bare. The song walks the listener around a house filled with broken dreams. Love may be the only thing left but it sure sounds like a lost cause. Rosanne worked with Colin Meloy on this song and the music does have a similarly dark folk sound as his band The Decemberists. The other track they have collaborated on together, Rabbit Hole, reminds us that friendship and a helping hand is sometimes needed to pull us out of the darkness.
The Undiscovered Country pays homage to Shakespeare, her father and those who have taught her so much. Life and love are still filled with unknowns that even the greatest artists have yet to understand. On 8 Gods of Harlem she’s joined by friend Elvis Costello, with some help from Kris Kristofferson, for a song concerning violence and the horror of gun crime. Unfortunately the quality of the music does not match the worthy and important words. At times on this album you crave a more obvious melody or even just a flicker of warmth to comfort the listener.
Crossing to Jerusalem is probably the closest we get to optimism. On a difficult journey she finds some solace in love – it’s a moment of light in an otherwise troubled collection of songs. Not Many Miles to Go is somewhat more upbeat musically, even if the lyrics concern the inevitability of death. As she wrote in her excellent memoir Composed, Loss is the great unifier, the terrible club to which we all eventually belong.
Everyone But Me is a piano ballad, a moment of introspection, sounding almost hymnal. She sings an orphan’s lament for her lost parents and life’s cruel fate. On the title track she takes on the third person to tell the story of a woman who ‘remembers everything’. Life haunts her and it’s hard to escape from bitterness.
The album finishes with two songs which acknowledge the ‘rainbow of suffering’ everyone endures. The answer to such pain on ‘Particle and Wave’ is to ‘hold someone dear. On ‘My Least Favourite Life’ she dives into dark melancholy, seeing a lifetime go up in smoke. The world unravels, the sky loses its blue and you wonder if it’s the end of the world.
She Remembers Everything is, at times, weighed down by its heavy subject matter but it is still a fascinating glimpse into the mind of an artist unafraid to look into the abyss. Dark times call for a serious response, even if it makes for uneasy listening.