by Rick Rockwell
Is it alright to have a musical crush on someone?
Before answering that, or thinking about the next logical question, the reason for such yearning: Carrie Rodriguez will be in Baltimore tonight and this critic won’t be there to see her performance.
Now, the crush is all musically related: Swear on a stack of whatever holy book is deemed appropriate for such swearing. But the hook was set hard with “Never Gonna Be Your Bride” from Rodriguez’ Seven Angels on a Bicycle. The sass and honesty of that song, coupled with her sweet fiddle playing were enough to capture a musical heart.
Rodriguez is touring to promote her new album She Ain’t Me, which was released this week. As this post is going up, she’s probably just finishing her final set at the debut party for the album at Joe’s Pub in New York City.
Also, as a way to promote the album, iTunes has one of the tracks “Infinite Night” available online for free this week. Wanting to share the crush, this critic suggests you finish reading this review and click over there for the download before it goes away.
For those unfamiliar with Ms. Rodriguez, She Ain’t Me is her second solo release. She cut four duet records with Chip Taylor (the stage name for James W. Voight, who wrote the rock classic “Wild Thing”) including one live release. Although she grew up in Austin, Texas, she’s now based in that musical hotbed of Brooklyn, New York. She is the daughter of songwriter/guitarist David Rodriguez who introduced her to Texas musical heavyweights like Lyle Lovett. She studied violin at Oberlin but transferred to Boston’s Berklee College of Music to explore less classical music and unearth more of her roots in folk, Americana, and country.
The results show.
Not only did Seven Angels on a Bicycle receive positive nods from many critics, but She Ain’t Me is a strong sophomore effort.
She Ain’t Me plays like a mournful musical letter to an ex-lover. For instance, on “El Salvador” she’s rethinking their relationship while he’s gallivanting around Central America. You can feel her declaration of hurt on “Absence,” a folk shuffler with an aching fiddle riff for a backbone: “Absence tells the heart its truth,” she stamps with a definitive tone. On “Can’t Cry Enough” she’s the woman who usually triumphs in love, but is somehow lost now. The title track has a great hook, and is a gentler remand to an ex than Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know,” but it’s certainly from the same pained vein. As might be expected for an artist pegged as country-folk, “She Ain’t Me” is the track getting the most attention, at least for the moment.
But those are not the only songs worth noting on this 11-song collection. “El Dorado” has the best cross-over potential, as a straightforward song about the seduction of success in the big city. On this number, Rodriguez’ subdued fiddle lets you know this woman retains her country roots in the shadows of the skyscrapers. “Mask of Moses” is a duet with Lucinda Williams (a three-time Grammy winner in the rock, folk and country categories). Rodriguez and Williams add their blues-tinged vocals over a sweeping gale-force arrangement whipped up by producer Malcolm Burns (known for his work as an engineer and sideman on Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball).
So when Rodriguez and her band play plenty of these wonderful new songs later at their Baltimore gig, this critic will be trying to find other solutions to relieve the musical crush. Where are the television listings? There’s word Rodriguez will make an appearance on Austin City Limits later this year on PBS. Count us in for that.
(The photo of Carrie Rodriguez performing in the U.K. last year is by 6tee-zeven via Flickr, using a Creative Commons License. After Baltimore, Rodriguez and her band will play Philadelphia, PA on Friday, Aug. 8.)
She Ain’t Me
Seven Angels on a Bicycle
Austin City Limits
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by Rick Rockwell