On Second Thought: Rosanne Cash – Interiors (1990)

A lot of people are good a composing year-end lists. Taking that a step further, a friend asked me and a group of acquaintances to list our favorite 10 CDs of all time — and not to put too much thought or time into making the list, but to list them off the top of our heads.

My list included the predictable, but one album which I was initially surprised made the list was Rosanne Cash’s 1990 release, Interiors. Mind you it is a great-sounding album, engineered by the late Roger Nichols, who won multiple Grammys for his work with Steely Dan. It also marked Cash’s debut as a producer. Obviously, she learned a thing or two about sympathetic production from her ex-husband Rodney Crowell. The production and sound are amazing, but those things only enhance the earnest and aching songwriting on this album.

Unlike the preceding album, the best-selling King’s Record’s Shop, Cash wrote or co-wrote the entire album. The results reflect the unraveling of the marriage to Crowell, and the anguish someone going through such a trauma would know. Cash doesn’t give the listener much hope in the album — but that’s OK because even in her utter despair, there is beauty.

She also hired a fantastically expressive band. Chief among them is guitarist W. Steuart Smith, an alumnus of Crowell’s band and now a long-time Eagles sideman. Smith is the king of good taste and economy, and Cash puts his talents to good use throughout the album. Interestingly the album also features her then-future husband John Leventhal on guitar, soon to be ex Rodney Crowell on vocals and acoustic guitar (“On The Surface”) as well as big names such as Jerry Douglas, Mark O’Connor, Larry Campbell and Vince Melamed.

Despite the number of so-called country players, the album has an adult contemporary sheen to it. That may explain why the album only made No. 175 on the Billboard album chart, and 23 on the country chart. That remains quite a disappointment, since its predecessor spawned four No. 1 country singles and reached No. 6 on the country charts.

Every track on Interiors, however, is a stand out, but “On The Inside,” “On The Surface” and “I Want A Cure” represent the essence of the album. Cash would go on to bigger commercial success and have many more great albums — hopefully, to include the forthcoming 2014 release The River and the Thread — but none so far has been as touching and evocative as Interiors.

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Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Chicago. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at slangofages@icloud.com; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.