One new release last Tuesday that I did not mention was one I had a difficult time listening to. The album is Black Cadillac, by Rosanne Cash. It is simply excellent. It is also emotionally raw and exhausting, if listened to well. It is an aural journey through loss.
Rosanne Cash is the daughter of the late Johnny Cash. In Black Cadillac, she wrestles with the death of her Dad and June Carter Cash, his wife (her own mother was Johnny's first wife), as well as her own mother, Vivian Distin, who died on Rosanne's 50th birthday. All died within a short period of each other. As you might expect, there is anger, loneliness, resolution, and faith (of a kind) in the mix -- all expertly handled in country-folk-rock stylings, not quite the country of her father, but not unlike it either.
Cash speaks about the record on her website, where she indicates that "Black Cadillac" was the first song she wrote, actually several weeks before June died. It has a foreboding feel to it: "It was a black Cadillac that took you away. . . One of us gets to go to heaven, one of us has to stay in hell." There's the pain of loss and even anger in having to deal with the grief of being left behind.
The crux of the album is in her dealing with what lies beyond the grave, in what goes on after life, and she comes to no clear answer. Though it is a questioning surrounded by the answers of Christianity, she rails against sentimentality and platitudes. In "Like Fugitives" she says "Don't want your tired religion, I'm not a soul you save." The song is in part about the Catholic church which she says ostracized her mother after her divorce from Johnny, as well as about some of the notes she received from some Christians who were upset on her anti-Iraq war stance. And yet she says about her Dad "I will look for you/ Between the grooves of songs we sing/Westward leading still proceeding to the world unseen" ("The World Unseen"), as song inspired by the familiar hymn sung at a Christmas Eve service.
It's too much to say there is hopefulness in these twelve songs; rather, it seems Rosanne knows there must be more beyond the grave, or wants to believe there is more, but she can't quite come to faith in Christ, even though He haunts all these songs. Perhaps the most hopeful song, even if she doesn't yet quite believe all she sings, is the beautiful "God is in the Roses": "God is in the roses/ the petals and the thorns/ storms out on the ocean/ souls who will be born. . . . And every drop of rain that falls/ falls to those who mourn/ God is in the roses and the thorns."
In an interview, Rosanne said that at the height of her struggle, she went to an Episcopal priest in Greenwich Village. She asked him where her mother and father were. He said, "Rosanne, I don't know." May God give her a better answer. May God give her the gift of faith that both Johnny and June had.