Black Music Matters Festival

Rosanne Cash

The Essential Rosanne Cash – 2011 (Sony Legacy)

Reviewed by Greg Yost

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Many top country artists have multiple greatest hits/best of/very best/super hits type collections and Roseanne Cash is certainly no exception. It's very rare that any single collection stands apart from the crowd, but that's exactly what this new Columbia/Legacy two-CD set accomplishes.

Impressive in terms of both size and scope, this 36-song collection rises to the top of the hits compilation heap because it covers Cash's entire career. The set starts with the tender acoustic ballad, Can I Still Believe In You, a relatively rare track culled Cash's 1978 eponymous debut from the German label Ariola, and concludes with the gorgeous and reflective Sweet Memories, a Mickey Newbury-penned track previously available only on an exclusive Border's edition of the artist's Grammy-nominated 2009 album "The List" from Manhattan/EMI Records.

In between those two outstanding bookends are the best songs from Cash's 7 Columbia Records' albums and 3 Capitol Nashville releases, including all 11 of her number 1 country music singles like Runaway Train, I Don't Know Why You Don't Want Me and If You Change Your Mind. Country fans will also fondly recall additional chart toppers like Cash's cover of her father's hit Tennessee Flat Top Box and It's Such A Small World, a duet with producer, collaborator and ex-husband, Rodney Crowell.

Even though the number one singles on this set shine as expected, some of this collection's best moments never even reached a chart, a testament to Cash's songwriting prowess. The rootsy folk pop of The Wheel from the 1993 album of the same name still sounds fresh today, while1987's The Real Me is a heartbreaking tale of longing, and a live version of A Love Is Forever is both jazzy and haunting.

Another highlight is September When It Comes, a darkly beautiful duet between Cash and her father, released months before he passed away in 2003.