Interiors: The Full Sessions, from Rosanne Cash's most poignant recording, contains two more tracks than the commercially released version. It's not a bootleg, but was sent out as a promotional copy. From its cover on in, the listener understands on a basic level that Interiors is a very different kind of Rosanne Cash record. Cash produced the record herself, with the exception of one track with then husband Rodney Crowell. With the exception of a few co-writes, Cash wrote everything else on the set except for the last track, which only appears on The Full Sessions, a cover of Karl Wallinger's awesome "All Come True." The songs are thematically linked around the subject of a relationship unraveling and coming apart. That relationship was Cash's marriage to Crowell. Charting the development of dysfunction, from infidelity to substance abuse to dishonesty to coming to terms that there is no ground left to salvage except humanity itself, Interiors is a dark and painful record to encounter. But it is the most stunningly beautiful record Cash ever cut as well. Songs are crafted painstakingly, and idle sentimentality is cut from the skeletal structure of each one. Cash's production style is spare, allowing for the lyric to be cared for by the instrumental backing, but never overwhelmed or carried by it. Words matter here: They ease pain, make sense of contradictions, and cut to the heart's blood that is love. On "Dance With the Tiger," the Cash/John Stewart tome, she sings with absolute yet quavering conviction: "In every woman and man lies the seed of the fear/Just how alone are all who live here/Denying the fear is the name of the game/To stare at the fear is goin' insane…Don't give me your life I have one of my own/It was a brilliant idea inventing a home/Creatures of habit American fools/Reaching for stars while we're standing on stools/Letting it go is jumping the train is to dance with the tiger/Letting it go though we won't be the same is to dance with the tiger/Letting it go is the name of the game is to dance with the tiger…."
"On the Surface" tells the story of how denial takes its toll. On "Real Woman," written with Crowell, Cash lays out in perfect terms her manifesto and renounces much of her past. "What We Really Want" is a song of regret about drugs, affairs, the price of stardom, and the wish to acknowledge the thing that is at the heart of all desire. Acoustic guitars caress her voice and she seeks its grain at the bottom of a well of emotion. Where the set comes into its own, revealing the full weight of the cost of this ending marriage, is on "Land of Nightmares," with a plodding piano and shimmering strings recounting how it all breaks down and into what, where emotions cease to be anything to count on because they're frozen. Two tracks later, she's singing "I Want a Cure," about separation and distance and how they foster fear and anger and the exhaustion they cause. "Paralyzed" is the way the conventional album ends, with Cash and a piano, stating all of the truths about the relationship and its dissolution. It's a harrowing ending, one that leaves no question answered. The extra tracks on The Full Sessions would seem to dispel the darkness, but given everything that came before, that task is too heavy to accomplish. The sweetly rocking "Portrait" offers a glimpse of hope in the shape of seeking a ghost. Given that this is her masterpiece, Interiors is a fitting ending not only to her relationship with Crowell, but also as her last album for Columbia's Nashville country division. There are no other records like this one -- poetic, devastating, tough, and true. Period.