Friday, Jan. 23, 2009

Rosanne Cash's Short List

When she was 18, Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Cash was given a list her dad Johnny had written called "100 Essential Country Songs." Rosanne recorded 12 of those tracks for her 12th album, The List, which was released in October. Next up for Cash is a memoir, out next summer. In her downtime Cash can be found listening to old and new songwriters or waiting to see what disaster Nurse Jackie will face next.

History trip
Just when I thought I couldn't absorb or enjoy one more thing about the court of Henry VIII, a book arrives that makes everything else seem like amateur hour. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel is written in such an elegant and natural voice, so well-researched and rich in detail that it's an exciting excursion to a time and a story that I thought I already knew well.

A classic songwriter
On his new disc, Closer to the Bone, Kris Kristofferson, one of the greatest living American songwriters, has lost none of his powers. He writes from his own deep authenticity, acutely aware of the fact that he has more to say, less time to say it. As he says in the title song, "Nothing but the truth now/ Everything is sweeter/ Closer to the bone."

Moody rhythms
Joe Henry, another great American songwriter, also has a new disc, Blood from Stars. He has a very different sensibility from Kristofferson but is equally authentic and well spoken. This is an understated, moody and supremely intelligent record. As he says, he believes in "love and darkness and rhythm."

My kind of blue
Sheila Berger paints in encaustic, a layered effect that seems to actually exude light from inside the painting. Her "Arbor Natum" series is mostly blue, a kind of blue I want to swim in.

TV triage
The setup in the first season of Nurse Jackie indicated a multitude of personal disasters looming on the horizon. I can't wait to see how this all implodes.