Rosanne Cash- The long journey home
If looks could kill, the cover shot of Rosanne Cash’s 1985 album Rhythm & Romance would have landed her on somebody’s most wanted list. Staring hard into the camera, a country-rock femme fatale in boudoir white, she dared you to crack wise about her shoulder-padded jacket, orangey spiked hair (coif by Rique, credits the LP sleeve) and dangling earrings. Was this the same woman who, on her previous album, Somewhere In The Stars, took a schoolgirl’s path to sultry in a gold-trimmed black top, heavyweight-championship-wide gold belt and mop of purple-tinted dark curls?
Looking back through the years at such fashion statements, another artist might be overcome by self-consciousness or a case of the giggles. But Cash, who has evolved into a stylish boho-sophisticate, is nonplussed by the aggressive stylings of yesteryear. “Look,” she says with a quick laugh, “I had a profound streak of rebellion and I let that play out. I liked to take chances. I had a lot of internal freedom. I didn’t worry about fitting in.”
The problem was, a lot of people did worry about her fitting in during her years in Nashville. Even when she was littering the country charts with #1 hits and playing next-wave queen to Rodney Crowell’s next-wave king, she was considered an outsider by industry types who wished she would act more like a country star by taking her act on the road — and keeping it there — and toning down her non-country leanings. “Musically, Rhythm & Romance was seen as rebellious back then,” she says. “Now, it’s a safe, overdone pop record.”
By the time her ardently gossiped-about marriage to Crowell hit the rocks several years down the road, she had hit the rocks with Music City. If she couldn’t make it there, even after having Made It, she’d make it in New York, New York.
“I moved here in 1991,” Cash says, having momentarily found a pocket of calm in the 1855 brownstone she shares on the Lower West Side with her second husband — and second producer-husband — John Leventhal and their family. “But I was a New Yorker before that, probably starting when I longed for the city, like you long for a person, when I was in my teens.”
Which brings us to the revealing cover shot of Rules Of Travel, her first album in seven years and quite possibly her best. Shot by her friend, the famous photographer Annie Leibovitz, in sub-zero December weather on the rocky, wave-whipped shore of Maine, it features her in a French Lieutenant’s Woman getup, standing before a shipwreck and contemplating her next move.
Cash will detail the tidal incidents she has survived in her life and career. She’ll name names. But as tough-edged as she still is, she has evolved into a person who prefers to believe that living well is the best rebellion.
This is an excerpt of the full article which appeared in The Best of No Depression: Writing About American Music, which features 25 of the finest articles from the magazines back issues, and was published in 2005 by University of Texas Press to help celebrate the magazines 10th anniversary. Due to our agreement with UT Press we are unable to include this article in our online archive.
The Best of No Depression is the only place you can find these articles other than our back issues. Visit the No Depression store to buy your copy for only $10.
The 300-page volume includes co-editor Grant Aldens award-winning 2001 feature on Billy Joe Shaver, co-editor Peter Blackstocks 1998 Artist of the Decade piece on Alejandro Escovedo, senior editor Bill Friskics-Warrens 2002 cover story on Johnny Cash, contributing editor Paul Cantins deep exploration of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-era Wilco; and many other high points from our print heyday.
Table of contents for The Best of No Depression:
Preface, by Grant Alden and Peter Blackstock
Los Lobos, by Geoffrey Himes
Alejandro Escovedo, by Peter Blackstock
Jon Dee Graham, by Peter Blackstock
Billy Joe Shaver, by Grant Alden
Ray Wylie Hubbard, by John T. Davis
Flatlanders, by Don McLeese
Ray Price, by David Cantwell
Johnny Gimble, by Bill C. Malone
Johnny Cash, by Bill Friskics-Warren
Rosanne Cash, by Lloyd Sachs
Lucinda Williams, by Silas House
Buddy & Julie Miller, by Bill Friskics-Warren
Kasey Chambers, by Geoffrey Himes
Loretta Lynn, by Barry Mazor
Patty Loveless, by Bill Friskics-Warren
Kieran Kane, by Peter Cooper
Paul Burch, by Jim Ridley
Hazel Dickens, by Bill Friskics-Warren
Gillian Welch, by Grant Alden
Ryan Adams, by David Menconi
Jay Farrar, by Peter Blackstock
Jayhawks, by Erik Flannigan
Wilco, by Paul Cantin
Drive-By Truckers, by Grant Alden
Iron & Wine, by William Bowers