Rosanne Cash Returns After With 'Rules Of Travel'

Excerpted from the magazine for

"I know big labels are dinosaurs and everything's changing," Rosanne Cash says, "but at the risk of sounding retro, I'm glad to be with Capitol."

She's particularly grateful for the label's forbearance during the long journey toward the creation of her latest album, "Rules of Travel," released March 25. It's her first album in 10 years, with the exception of 1996's "10 Song Demo," which had been her first and only project for Capitol until now.

Cash began work on "Rules of Travel" in 1998, and then frighteningly lost her voice; it took more than two years in vocal therapy for it to return to its previous strength and quality. The problem originated with vocal polyps caused by hormones during her pregnancy with her now-4-year-old son, Jake.

The downtime grew from a frustration into an identity crisis for Cash, who worried that her career was over. When her voice first disappeared, she says, "I didn't really care because I was going to give that time to the baby anyway. Then the baby was a year old and my voice still wasn't back, and I freaked out." During that time, she says, it was "too depressing" to even pick up a guitar. "At some point, it started eating away at my self-esteem."

But in a sense, missing something she had previously somewhat taken for granted was an eye-opener for Cash. "I found that I really wanted [a singing career.] And that was a great thing, actually; a profound experience. I wanted to sing just for the joy of it."

The ordeal ultimately helped her in the recording of the new album. "I didn't have the anxiety about singing that I had before I lost my voice," she says. "I felt more accepting of myself."

Cash wrote or co-wrote eight of the 11 tracks on "Rules of Travel"; she recorded it in New York with her husband/producer John Leventhal, who she says "had a real vision that [the album] should draw from all eras of my career, plus the newness of where I am right now. I feel it's not as navel-gazing as some of my records in the past. I'm not working out anger or regret so much [now] as [I am] living out the questions."

The album features vocal collaborations with Sheryl Crow, Steve Earle, and her father, Johnny Cash, and includes songs written by Jakob Dylan, Joe Henry, and Marc Cohn. Cash looked to other writers a little more for this project, explaining, "I was really sick of my own thoughts. I wanted to interpret someone else's thoughts. It turns out we were all thinking the same things."

The pairing with her legendary father on "September When It Comes" is, Cash says, her first real duet with him, even though they have recorded together before. The song, which Cash and Leventhal co-wrote, is about mortality. Cash says, "It was partly about my dad, because his health had started to degrade around the time I wrote that song. It was the first time I ever had to deal with a parent's mortality." Still, she says, she needed some convincing before she asked her father to sing with her: "I didn't want it to look like a gimmick."

Once Cash finally did ask her father, he told her he'd have to read the lyrics before he'd agree to do it. "He's an artist through and through," she says, laughing at the memory.

Cash will support the album's release with concert appearances throughout the summer, including a Sept. 19 appearance at the second Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Here are Rosanne Cash's upcoming tour dates:

May 25: North Adams, Mass. (Mass MoCA)
June 7: Elmer, N.J. (Appel Farm)
June 20: Brooklyn, N.Y. (Prospect Park)
July 13: Portland, Ore. (Oregon Zoo Amphitheatre)
July 15: Roseburg, Ore. (Stewart Park)
July 16: Seattle (Woodland Park Zoo)
July 17: Albany, Ore. (Monteith Riverpark)
July 20: Saratoga, Calif. (Villa Montalvo Center for the Arts)
Aug. 3: Cambridge, England (Cambridge Folk Festival)
Aug. 23: Pittsburgh (Bradley Fest)
Aug. 27: Albany, N.Y. (Empire State Plaza)
Aug. 30: Orkney Springs, Va. (Shenandoah Valley Music Fest)
Sept. 6: Oyster Bay, N.Y. (Planting Fields)
Sept. 19: Austin, Texas (Austin City Limits Music Festival)

Excerpted from the May 3, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Premium Services section.

To order a single copy of the issue, visit The Billboard Store.