My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Rosanne Cash – ‘The Wheel’

The 1990s ushered in an era of change for Rosanne Cash, both professionally and personally. Her marriage to Rodney Crowell was beginning to unravel, and as a result her music became more introspective and detached from mainstream country. Her first project of the decade was the (almost) career-killing Interiors, an album of dark and deeply depressing songs that she wrote and produced herself. Aware that the album would be a hard sell to country radio, Columbia Records turned promotional responsibilities for it over to its pop division, and shortly thereafter Rosanne’s contract was transferred from Nashville to New York. Though critically acclaimed, Interiors was a commercial failure, after which Rosanne took a sabbatical from recording for nearly three years.

Her follow-up disc The Wheel examines a lot of the same territory as Interiors, but by this time her outlook is much less bleak. Now divorced from Crowell, Rosanne co-produced The Wheel with John Leventhal, whom she would eventually marry. She wrote all eleven songs on the album, with Leventhal serving as a co-writer on four. Throughout the album she continues to put her failed marriage to Crowell under the microscope, although many of the songs also deal with moving on to a new relationship. What little marketing the album received was handled by Columbia’s New York division. Two singles were released. Neither reached the country chart in the US, though the title track did reach #45 on the adult contemporary chart and the follow-up single “Seventh Avenue” reached #63 on the country chart in Canada. Like Interiors, The Wheel was a commercial disappointment and it marked the end of Rosanne’s tenure with Columbia Records.

Both albums appear to have been created more for the benefit of the artist’s need to examine the changes in her personal life, rather than for the pleasure of the listener. While music is a perfectly legitimate means of self-expression, releasing two such albums consecutively comes across as rather self-indulgent. The Wheel is a much easier album to listen to than its predecessor. It is a quiet album, similar in style to some released by Mary Chapin Carpenter and Nanci Griffith; in fact, Carpenter contributed background vocals to some tracks. The songs are all tastefully produced and well sung. Unfortunately, they are also for the most part, quite dull. While I enjoyed a few tracks — namely, the title track, “You Won’t Let Me In”, and the excellent “Roses In the Fire” in which Rosanne burns the peace-offering of a cheating spouse — the remainder of the songs suffer from a lack of variety in tempo. Many of them are also too long, clocking in at about five minutes in length. They have a tendency to bleed together and by the fourth track I found myself wondering if the album was almost over yet.

While clearly not to my personal taste, The Wheel did receive considerable critical acclaim. It is essential listening only for diehard Rosanne Cash fans, but since cheap copies are widely available, more casual fans may be willing to add it to their collections.

Grade: C

One response to “Album Review: Rosanne Cash – ‘The Wheel’

  1. Eric May 19, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    Great album under rated

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