Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez
Live from the Ruhr Triennale: October 2005
First Appeared in The Music Box, November 2007, Volume 14, #11
Written by John Metzger
Wed November 28, 2007, 06:45 AM CST
In just a few short years, the partnership of Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez has been remarkably fruitful. Not only did it reestablish Taylor’s faded star, but it also launched Rodriguez’s career. The duo’s connection was immediate, and over the course three albums — Let’s Leave This Town, The Trouble with Humans, and Red Dog Tracks — it grew stronger. They learned to anticipate and react instantaneously to one another, while Taylor’s lyrics and melodies became sharper and more naturally suited to their style. The musical rapport that they developed was simply sublime.
Recently, however, Taylor and Rodriguez have put a little distance between themselves. Although she contributed to his double-disc set Unglorious Hallelujah, her name was left off the marquee. At the same time, she stepped out on her own by issuing Seven Angels on a Bicycle and mounting a solo tour. While she received some assistance from Taylor — he produced the album and wrote most of its songs — these moves do raise at least some uncertainty about their future together, especially since he also has begun working with Kendel Carson, another young, female fiddler.
There’s no doubt, then, that Live from the Ruhr Triennale: October 2005 is a stopgap measure. Regardless, it serves as a terrific introduction to and a wonderful overview of Taylor and Rodriguez’s collaborative efforts, one that also provides plenty of twists and turns for the duo’s longtime fans to enjoy. There’s a natural, almost conversational manner to the way in which Taylor and Rodriguez toss lyrics back and forth, and her sassy twang matches perfectly to his understated and relaxed delivery. There were moments during the pair of concerts that were compiled for Live from the Ruhr Triennale: October 2005 when the duo kicked up some dust — particularly during Laredo and The Real Thing as well as on a cover of Johnny Cash’s Big River — but it was during the quietly intimate songs where their connection truly sprang to life.
Backed by a stellar cast of supporting musicians, including guitarist Bill Frisell and multi-instrumentalist Greg Leisz, Taylor and Rodriguez wrenched torrents of emotion from their material. Let’s Leave This Town reeked of desperation, while Angel of the Morning was sad but seductive. On Must Be the Whiskey, the sounds that emanated from Frisell’s guitar and Leisz’s pedal steel wafted like tumbleweeds alongside the lightly chugging rhythm. Elsewhere, Merle Haggard’s Today I Started Loving You Again was delivered with a perfect mixture of anguish and longing, while the country classic Long Black Veil felt as haunting and mournful as it ever has.
By the time that Taylor and Rodriguez wound their way through the twisting corridors of the instrumental Elzick’s Farewell — which boasted some exquisite interplay between Rodriguez on fiddle and Leisz on mandolin — and landed squarely within a reworked rendition of Wild Thing — with guest Buddy Miller joining the fray — any doubts that remained about the sublimity of their union certainly were erased. As Live from the Ruhr Triennale: October 2005 attests, theirs is the sort of special relationship that is all too rare, and one can only hope that the album’s existence isn’t a sign that its end is near. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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