Losing a loved one is, naturally, a time to reflect. For Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Rosanne Cash, the aging and failing health of her mother, stepmother and father, who all died in the span of two years, proved a sorrowful inspiration.
Cash's latest, "Black Cadillac," was released after the death of her mother, Vivian Liberto, which followed the passing, in a four-month period, of her stepmother, June Carter Cash, and her famous father, Johnny Cash. It explores life and death in ways that Cash herself has called almost foreboding.
In an e-mail interview, Cash said the 12 tracks on the disc bring up different emotions on different days.
"Yes, my relationship to the songs seems to be in flux quite a lot," she wrote of her concert performances. "Some nights particular songs are heavy with sadness, some nights they are elegiac and liberating.
"Sometimes I feel as if I'm doing a theater piece and approach the songs as a character. Sometimes it seems so much about my own life that I resist it. And that can change from song to song over the evening. It's always interesting to me, and I always hope people bring their own lives to this. But it's not a diary. It's still music, and therefore redemptive, and I love that."
The album was named among the best of 2006 by The New York Times, Billboard and NPR. In last year's Country Music Critics' Poll, she was in the top five in the categories of best album, best female vocalist and best songwriter.
Throughout her nearly 30-year-career in music, Cash has managed to buck the trend of musical scions not living up to their famous parents' legacies. She has carved a successful niche for herself in country music, landing 20 or so Top 40 singles and 11 chart toppers. In 1985, she took home the Grammy for best female country vocal performance for her single "I Don't Know Why You Don't Want Me."
Cash has extended her album's personal, soul-searching mood in her live shows. The multimedia presentation traces her family's history through self-narrated videos, childhood photos and metaphorical images.
Not one to rest on her past successes, Cash is in the process of writing a book. It will be published by Viking in 2009.
"I am working on a book right now, among several other projects (a song for a film, a song for a Scottish music show, etc)," she said in the e-mail. "It's a memoir, although I don't think I'm quite old enough to write one, but there you go."