Picks and Pans Review: 10 Song Demo
It's hard to believe that a collection of rough drafts—for no particular reason, 11 of them comprise this 10 Song Demo—can sound so much like a finished product. Following in the footsteps of rockers like PJ Harvey who have released their work in raw, unpolished form, Cash has come far from the bemused woman who, over the chugging rockabilly groove of her 1981 hit "My Baby Thinks He's a Train," marveled at the way her restless sweetheart "drags me 'round just like an old caboose."
Continuing in the more highbrow, folk-pop vein of her two previous efforts, 1990's Interiors and 1993's The Wheel, the former queen of C&W blues comes across on her eighth album as a more confessional Mary Chapin Carpenter with a bigger chip on her shoulder. Cash may possess extraordinary musical talent, but she's a victim of commonplace heartbreak—she and singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell divorced in 1992—and on such spare, delicate plaints as "Western Wall" and "Don't Talk About It," she presents an irrefutable argument: Living, like loving, leaves permanent scars.
There's only so much variety a musician can offer with such a solemn message and stripped arrangements dominated by keyboards and acoustic guitars—perhaps that's why Cash limited the CD to 36 minutes—but the pitch of her alto, which just oozes bittersweet resignation, and her sharp lyricism go a mighty long way here: "I see myself defiled on every page and every screen/ 'Cause I don't weigh a hundred pounds/I'm not 20 anymore/Nor would I want to be," she spits at one point. You go, girl! (Capitol)
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