Born to country royalty, Rosanne Cash spent the first part of her career singing the songs she was told to by her country star-producer husband, Rodney Crowell, and wound up on the country charts for a decade. Much of that work (codified on the scrumptious best-of, Hits 1979-1989) was impressive, but it wasn't the full story. When she and Crowell broke up, Nashville must have snickered at what the husbandless, producerless, songwriterless waif would do next. What she did was write and produce her own album, the stunningly constructed, viscerally emotional Interiors. Her latest album, The Wheel, a lush exposition of VH-1 adult pop, isn't a letdown, exactly, but it does seem a bit too processed. Nonetheless, a year after its release, the record's strengths stay with you. The key metaphor of Interiors centered on a debilitating disease brought on by a faithless lover. The follow-up starts where Interiors left off (with the words, "I'll move on / I'll go higher"), placing its protagonist in a sort of postapocalyptic emotional landscape. (Images of fire and ashes are strewn throughout the album.) It's disappointingly slight in places, but Cash's generally warm voice occasionally works up enough tension to give it an edge. Her shows are intimate but nervous affairs in which the singer, no fan of touring, struggles to communicate genuine emotions to an audience whose intelligence and tastes she respects. A lot of the time she succeeds. Saturday, 7:30 PM, Park West, 322 W. Armitage; 929-5959 or 559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Pam Springsteen.