Wednesday, September 07, 2011

46. Rosanne Cash, "The Real Me" (1987)


The album this comes from, King's Record Shop, may have been as close as Rosanne Cash ever got to a hit-making factory—the cover of the old man's "Tennessee Flat-Top Box" was only one of four to go #1 on the country charts. But "The Real Me" was not exactly any part of that. Instead, it stands out starkly from everything around it, and in retrospect it's easy to see how much it looks ahead to the next phase of her career, in the albums Interiors and The Wheel, a period of introspective, even raw exercises that accompanied a divorce and other life-changing events. She was coming to terms with ghosts that had haunted her all her life, as daughter of Johnny and wife of Rodney Crowell and mother of three (going on four). As a true-blue fan who enjoyed all of her '80s releases, I think Interiors is her best album running away. And I was thrilled and mesmerized from the very first I heard this, the soft, almost inaudible strokes of its beginnings, the way it verges on pure unaccompanied vocal performance, swelling bigger and bigger, and the simple power of its sentiment, which strikes home deep. The moment of liberation arrived, identity crisis resolved: "This is the real me, breakin' down at last / Hey, it's the real me, crawlin' out of my past." The verses make it plain this is artifact of the shell of her marriage cracking, but there's so much more to it than that. It's an arrival at a truth as vital as it is personal, a dramatic reckoning point, and a tremendous source of strength and solace for performer and audience alike. It's exciting in only the way that such a moment of personal revelation can be; it depends on that more than anything. And, simply put, it just feels good to recognize the impulse so plainly stated in another.

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