Rosanne Cash's phenomenal country-music success--something like a dozen number-one singles in the last ten years--underscores a remarkable ability to work within the confines of a straitlaced idiom while keeping her integrity relatively intact. I don't like a lot of what she does: she'll go for the cheap emotion when she has to, and she relies too much on other people's songs, sometimes screwing them up in the process (the goofy backup singers in her version of John Hiatt's "This Is the Way We Make a Broken Heart"; Cash trying too hard to make a statement and sounding callow, as on her cover of father Johnny's "Tennessee Flat Top Box"). But somehow she keeps getting better: her voice has a compelling tug to it, and over the years she's eased up on the schmaltz and started singing with a quiet and occasionally devastating authority. At the same time, she's cut back on the covers and focused more on herself. The aptly titled Interiors, her new album, continues this trend: she produced, and wrote or cowrote, every song. The record's something to hear--it's about (emotional) interiors and exteriors, sure, but also about how the two crash and occasionally burn, especially if you're a woman and in the public eye. In the first lyric of the album she's crawling; ten songs later, devastated by a breakup in the remarkable "Paralyzed," she reaches down for strength and finds it: "I'll move on / I'll go higher." It's a very good record. The show tonight, a solo acoustic performance that should be a nice showcase for a lot of these themes, could be fabulous. Tonight, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 929-5959.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/E.J. Camp.