Local Wire

Rosanne Cash

Even the briefest essay about Rosanne Cash requires a list of her reckonable accomplishments: the 11 number one singles, the Grammy award, and always, always her royal musical lineage. But if being Johnny Cash's daughter got her foot in Music City's door, and while all those hits kept her on Columbia Records' roster for many years, it was her wider contribution to country music -- the urbane, deeply personal poetry that transcends the twangy he-done-me-wrong songs that typify Nashville -- with which she's made her mark.

Which isn't to say we don't love Cash's 21 Top 40 Country hits. "Seven Year Ache" is the smartest musical memory to linger from pop radio's lamentable early '80s romance with country music, and her version of John Hiatt's "Runaway Train" was a high point in both their careers. But it's fair to say that, ever since 1979's Right or Wrong, she's made gloomily sophisticated music fashionable in a way that Laura Nyro never could; helped reshape what country music sounds like; and has upheld the singer-songwriter tradition in a world overrun with Shanias and Faiths and LeAnns. For that, and for all the hits, and the gorgeous ruminations wedged between them, we're deeply grateful.

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela