40 Best Country Albums of 2014

The greatest statements from the year's outsiders, small town heroes and American middle class

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Rosanne Cash, 'The River & the Thread'

8. Rosanne Cash, 'The River & the Thread'

A visit to her father's boyhood home in Arkansas stirred up visions and memories of the South in this two-decade Manhattan resident. The songs that resulted range widely through that region, alluding to Emmett Till's murder, eulogizing the wife of her pa's bassist, recreating Civil War love letters and basking in the wattage of storied Memphis AM station WDIA. The arrangements are precise but never fussy, the lyrics capture the plainspoken resonance of traditional folk and the voice belongs to a modern woman sorting through her past. K.H.

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