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Rosanne Cash You’ve probably heard the story.

Rosanne is an 18-year-old pop-rock- loving teen riding the bus with her dad. Her lack of knowledge about roots and Americana traditional songs is concerning to the man in black. So he scribbles a list of 100 classics, and tells her if she ever wants to be a singer these are songs she’d better know. She’s kept them for 30-some years, thankfully for us, and here’s the initial delivery – 12 classic country tunes beautifully expressed. Miss the Mississippi and You is a

lament of displacement and longing to return. The timeless Motherless Children starts simply with gentle

mandolin countered by the strength of Cash’s vocals, and then builds gradually with drums, bass and fiddle before finishing with some lovely fuzz guitar. It’s a brilliant rendition of a traditional stalwart. The List continues with the same

high standards. Sea of Heartbreak teams Rosanne with the Boss himself, Cash’s crystalline vocals playing against Springsteen’s baritone to nice effect. Take These Chains From My Heart, Heartaches By The Number and 500 Miles pay homage to the great, late Appalachian writers like Hedy West, Harlan Howard and A.P. Carter, all sung beautifully in that mournfully strong voice Cash possesses. She truly is her father’s daughter. I’m Moving On is languid and sensual, anchored by a clumping,

sinuous bass line and sing-song vocals by Cash accentuated with lovely guitar touches from her husband/producer John Leventhal. He plays most of the instruments on the album, always in perfect complement with his wife’s gorgeous vocals. A song I’d always thought Celtic

in origin – The Long Black Veil - is yet another Appalachian gem made current and emotive by Cash’s interpretation. Same goes for She’s Got You; it’s full of longing and remorse as all the best country tunes are. In keeping with great American

songwriters, Dylan’s Girl From The North Country is impeccably and beautifully delivered; the same is true of the classic Under the Weeping


The World Without Us Alan Weiseman (Harper Collins)

Imagine every one of us suddenly

removed from the planet. Hard to fathom or comprehend? It’s the idea behind this engrossing book by Alan Weisman, and it’s riveting, sober and thoughtful reading. Weisman takes his premise from

an article he wrote for Harper’s magazine some years ago and expands on it considerably. He travels the globe and delves into almost every scientific field to surmise what would happen if humans seek to exist. It is pretty cool material; and best of all, he makes the scientific, big ideas understandable and easy to comprehend. These are big ideas and thoughts,

believe me. Weisman explores various parts of the world geographically to envision what would happen when we vanish; looks to the cosmos and


the beginning of interstellar planetary systems and where we fit in; explores evolutionary ideas; and revisits ancient civilizations and extinct species to muse about the possibility of regeneration and renewal in the wake of our demise. The descriptions of what will

happen to say, New York City, or Houston’s notorious “Chemical Alley” are brilliantly scary and fascinating – it’s all about how nature takes over and renders everything man-made useless over time. Of course, our advanced thinking has created things like nuclear waste sites and dumps, razed entire mountains in search of fossil fuels, eradicated ecosystems and laid waste to the oceans, to say nothing of the daily degradation that happens just through seven billion of us existing. Even given all the negatives,

Weisman proves conclusively that nature will quickly re-establish and

re-populate places we’re gone from. He takes Verusha in divided Cyprus as an example – a ghost city left to nature thanks to the division of the country into Greek and Turkish sides. Literally it’s the world without humans in a microcosm, a planned resort city left empty and alone. The scope of the emptiness he finds there is eerie: fundamentally devoid of any sign of human life after 30-plus years of desertion and erosion by nature. The same is true of the Korean

demilitarized zone. Ironically, the hostilities between the two countries have created a sanctuary for critically endangered species. This strip of land without human inhabitation or presence other than the occasional brave/foolhardy peasant/poacher is a boon for flora and fauna, a safe place

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