The bottom line is that Rosanne Cash's masterpiece Seven Year Ache paved the way for Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, and then some. Proclaimed by Cash and her husband/producer/collaborator, Rodney Crowell, as "punktry," the album adds an entirely new twist on the Nashville sound. Perhaps it is because this is L.A. country and reflects the cocaine bliss in the sound of the era as well as Fleetwood Mac's Tusk does. Utilizing everything from synthesizers and rock arrangements to pop ballad-styled charts and plenty of attitude, Seven Year Ache yielded three number one singles and songs by rock musicians such as Tom Petty and singer/songwriters like Keith Sykes and Steve Forbert. Of the singles, Cash penned two; the title track, which is a sorrowful indictment of her husband's philandering ways, and the shattering ballad "Blue Moon With Heartache." The third, the smash "My Baby Thinks He's a Train," was written by Asleep at the Wheel's Leroy Preston. Musically, the band included many of the same players from the Right or Wrong sessions, with the emerging vocal talent of former Pure Prairie League member Vince Gill. Forbert's "What Kinda Girl" is almost rockabilly in its shuffling intensity and punk bravado. It dares the listener to define the protagonist just to shatter the preconception. There's also a nod to tradition here in Cash's beautifully updated read of the Merle Haggard/Red Simpson nugget "You Don't Have Very Far to Go," complete with whinnying pedal steels and a honky tonk backbeat. In "My Baby Thinks He's a Train," Cash and Crowell very consciously offer a new generation interpretation of dad Johnny's sound. This rocks harder yet is smooth as silk and full of that desolate want Johnny offered in his delivery. But unlike her father's, this isn't a forlorn yearning want, it's a pissed off anthemic want. For the ambulance chasers, this record with its songs of infidelity and broken promises may indeed be the first crack in a marriage and collaboration that ended a decade later. The tempo borrows the old Tennessee Three rhythm, but sped up into the stratosphere, with a shifting Western swing line near the refrain. Over 20 years after it was first issued, Seven Year Ache sounds as fresh and revolutionary as it did when it was issued. Any album that stands that test of time in a field like country deserves to be regarded as a classic. Yes, this is the one that changed everything.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek