The Wheel

Rosanne Cash

Columbia, 1993

REVIEW BY: Peter Piatkowski


Quietly, stealthily, since her debut in 1978, Rosanne Cash has become one of the most idiosyncratic and creative singer-songwriters in country music. Though she has amassed an impressive list of top ten hits in the 1980s, Cash would never be the commercial superstar that say, Reba McEntire is. But with each album, she’s proven to be a deeply sensitive performer who has used music to seemingly channel personal demons, slights, and resentments. The Wheel, her 1993 record is a bittersweet country pop album that feels like a bit of a salve after the raw, naked emotion of 1990’s my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Interiors.  

The first thing that is noticeable is that the soundscape of the record is like an autumnal kaleidoscope. There are gorgeous, thick, textured sounds throughout the album’s 11 tracks. There are loping mandolins, strumming guitars, tinkly pianos, and plaintive steel guitars. And in front of the lacey instrumentation is Cash’s voice – a tight, understated instrument, pretty in its restraint.  

Though not as brutal as Interiors, The Wheel is still very melancholy. Instead of dealing with the tatters of a damaged love, The Wheel is about the tentative, tricky period when one is “moving on.” Love isn’t easy according to Cash and the songs track a woman’s angst about embarking on a new love. On the album’s greatest moment “Sleeping In Paris,” Cash is unbearably lovely, singing of a bruised, emotionally injured personality. She gets a bit friskier in “From The Ashes” but maintains a similar theme of figuring out just how lasting heartache and disappointment can be.  

But The Wheel isn’t just Rosanne Cash lamenting through sad torchy songs. “Roses In The Fire” is a charging number with a more aggressive production, including some great surf guitars and a spirited moody vocal performance by Cash, as she castigates an errant lover. Aggrieved and indignant, Cash lashes out announcing that she knows “no man that [she] can trust.” And on the brisk title track, Cash sounds cautiously optimistic as she announces her ability to grow and move on.  

And though Cash isn’t wallowing in sorrow or trepidation, the strongest songs on The Wheel freely show the singer’s shaken sense of self and confidence. She’s able to take sorrow and anguish and create some gorgeous, lilting music. Like many country singers – especially female country singers – she can spin music gold out of the gloomiest feelings. With The Wheel, Cash continues an exciting journey watching a brilliant, if unassuming talent, flourish and grow.

Rating: A

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