With 1990's Interiors Rosanne Cash made a break with Nashville, leaving behind astonishing success as a singles artist in favor of a more self-determined folk-rock direction. Since then she has released two albums, moved to New York, left Columbia Records for Capitol, divorced Rodney Crowell, and married her producer, John Leventhal. Her latest offerings--the album 10 Song Demo and her first fiction collection, Bodies of Water--are her most striking. In the early 90s Cash shifted to blunt, highly personal lyrics in chronicling the painful dissolution of her marriage; these new works deal with transition, compromise, and acceptance. Cash's writing artfully avoids absolutes; more often than not her songs recognize the fleeting nature of most feelings and experiences. The album, as its title suggests, was intended as a demo, but Capitol president Gary Gersh convinced Cash to release it as it was. The spare production--mostly guitar and piano--allows the delicate sophistication of Cash's melodies to shine and her lyrics to resonate in the listener's head (the production on past efforts has sometimes smothered these things). Though it's not intended as a companion volume, the book often complements the album. In the song "The Summer I Read Colette" it only takes "five or six hours in the month of July" to nudge the narrator to visit Paris. But "Part Girl" from Bodies of Water elaborates, with the narrator drifting through Paris making difficult but revealing discoveries. Even Cash's most upbeat tunes are undergirded by a nagging sense of the bittersweet, and her dark tunes are streaked with flashes of inner strength. With 10 Song Demo Cash has completed her transformation from country singer to contemporary folk-rock songstress. It's hard to think of another artist who combines lilting melodies with such a realistic, calm grip on life's travails. Friday, 10 PM, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Roseanne Cash by Tom Tavee.