Having transitioned from violin to fiddle, from instrumentalist to vocalist, Carrie Rodriguez is mesmerizing in her coming-out as a soloist and songwriter. Her mentor and duet partner Chip Taylor is still on hand, writing and co-producing, but the result is truly distinct from their earlier albums as a pair.
Recording with guitarist Bill Frisell and his frequent rhythm partners Kenny Wollesen (drums) and Viktor Krauss (bass), Rodriguez absorbs their atmospheric textures and lyrical attitudes. Frisell’s guitar and Greg Leisz’s pedal steel provide a warm, enveloping instrumental wrap around the heart-on-sleeve declaration of “Got Your Name On It”, and the languorous guitars of “Big Kiss” provide ambience for a vocal that slowly rouses itself from a dream.
Rodriguez stamps some southern soil onto the floors of New York’s Avatar Studios with the Lucinda Williams-styled sexuality of “50′s French Movie” and the feral, fiddle-steeped kiss-offs of “Never Gonna Be Your Bride” and “I Don’t Wanna Play House Anymore”. The closing “St. Peters” captures the record’s full dynamic range, with low wavering steel and confessional vocals giving way to a midtempo bridge before kneeling back down to finish the prayer.
After her three albums with Taylor, the depth of Rodriguez’s playing and singing isn’t exactly a secret, but the confident way she leads this ensemble through sessions that mix country, soul, jazz and avant-garde sounds is remarkable. No longer the prodigy, protégé or ingénue, Rodriguez is a star in her own right.