Before country radio moved away from nuance and idiosyncrasy, Rosanne Cash ruled the charts in the '80s, placing nearly a dozen singles in the Top 25, with half of them hitting No. 1. Once the radio changed, Cash began to really explore her own voice as a songwriter. Now the singer of songs as overwhelmingly popular as "Seven-Year Ache" and "I Don't Know Why You Don't Want Me" is playing small-scale, intimate venues like the Sheldon.
Despite a period a few years ago when she literally lost her ability to sing, Cash's vocals haven't changed much since she began her recording career in 1979. She has a lovely alto range, though she sometimes pushes it lower than you'd think she could go, producing an expressive effect that faintly echoes her father, Johnny Cash. She favors melodies that enable her to slide up into the richly evocative upper register as well.
Cash's latest album, 2003's Rules of Travel, is one of the gems of this century. She's 48 years old now, and singing of love and loss and connection with an increasingly clear eye for the ways in which these things change over time. For some reason, her visits to St. Louis have been exceedingly rare; the last time she stopped in our town was a 1988 performance at Mississippi Nights. Those who saw that show remember it as a major event. After all these years of artistic growth, Cash should be even better this time.