On her 1990 album, Interiors, Rosanne Cash bid adieu to her early Nashville sound–it’s a decidedly dark and adult pop record–and to that city’s music-industry rat race. After moving to New York with her producer and husband, John Leventhal, she began writing prose as well as music, publishing a short-story collection and a children’s book; she’s currently working on a memoir of her Nashville days. But the seven-year gap between 1996’s Ten Song Demo and last year’s terrific Rules of Travel (Capitol) wasn’t entirely her choice. She began work on the album in 1998, but a polyp on her vocal cords relegated her to more than two years of rehabilitation. There’s no sign of struggle on Rules of Travel; in fact, her voice is better than ever. With Leventhal playing most of the instruments, Cash surveys scarred and sometimes harrowing domestic landscapes with a rare combination of empathy and bluntness. She surrenders to romantic obsession on “I’ll Change for You,” a duet with Steve Earle, and on the closing “Last Stop Before Home,” she conveys vulnerability and dignity while throwing up her hands in exasperation over an old lover. Leventhal’s production deftly mixes folk-rock warmth, pop tunefulness, and contemporary production snap without impinging on Cash’s authoritative voice. Willy Mason, a young New Englander with a voice that echoes Alejandro Escovedo’s, opens; his new album, Where the Humans Eat, released on Conor Oberst’s Team Love label, is a collection of country- and blues-flavored acoustic pop songs. Saturday 11/20, 7:30 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, 773-728-6000 or 866-468-3401, sold out. All ages.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Annie Leibovitz.