Thursday, November 25, 2010

Book Review: Roseanne Cash Composed

Rosanne Cash Composed

For thirty years as a musician, Rosanne Cash has enjoyed both critical and commercial success, releasing a series of albums that are as notable for their lyrical intelligence as for their musical excellence. Now, in her memoir, Cash writes compellingly about her upbringing in Southern California as the child of country legend Johnny Cash, and of her relationships with her mother and her famous stepmother, June Carter Cash. In her account of her development as an artist she shares memories of a hilarious stint as a twenty-year-old working for Columbia Records in London; recording her own first album on a German label; working her way to success; her marriage to Rodney Crowell, a union that made them Nashville's premier couple; her relationship with the country music establishment; taking a new direction in her music and leaving Nashville to move to New York; motherhood; dealing with the deaths of her parents, in part through music; the process of songwriting; and the fulfillment she has found with her current husband and musical collaborator, John Leventhal. Cash has written an unconventional and compelling memoir that, in the tradition of M. F. K. Fisher's The Gastronomical Me and Frank Conroy's Stop-Time, is a series of linked pieces that combine to form a luminous and brilliant whole.
My Thoughts:
I am actually one of the few people who was familiar with Rosanne Cash long before I knew who Johnny Cash was. My mother listened to pop country music while I was growing up, but openly confessed that she hated "old" country music (like Johnny Cash). So I knew very well who Roseanne Cash was from a very early age. In fact, when I first became interested in music at about the age of 9 or 10, the tapes that I took from my mom and listened to constantly were Rosanne Cash-Kings Record Shop, the Footloose soundtrack, every Judd's Album, and Anne Murray (don't ask me where that last one came from-like I said, I was figuring out music) I am now a huge Johnny Cash fan, and probably listen to him more than Rosanne Cash, but I still like both. However, all this really has nothing to do with this book so...
This was a beautiful memoir of Rosanne Cash's life up to this point (she is 55 now). It was very interesting to learn about the life of the daughter of a music legend who also had her own success and had fame based on her own talent as a songwriter and singer. She speaks about her struggle when she was younger to be judged on her own merits and not because of who her father is. Now that she is older she is starting to embrace it more, which comes full circle from when she started in life. I was surprised about how much she did talk about her father in the book because of her concern of living in his shadow, but I am so glad that she did. The parts talking about her father were some of my favorite parts of the book. I really enjoyed learning about how good of a father he was and his parenting style of always being there for her if she needed it, but never giving unsolicited advice. Even when he was strung out, he could still dig down deep and tell her exactly what she needed to hear. I am fascinated by the father/adult daughter relationship because I have no personal experience draw from.
She has a really good use of language, but at times she seems to use a lot of words to not say very much. I like a bit more plot and stories and a little less introspection. If this was someone I knew personally, I think those parts would mean a lot more to me. And they were appropriate, considering that this is a memoir, but being a published book for the public, it gets a bit too sentimental for me.
If you are a big fan of Johnny or Rosanne Cash, then you'll really enjoy this book, but if not then you might not care to read it.