Friday, May 08, 2009

To A Sheen - The District

From the District - (5/06/09)

Fiddler/vocalist Carrie Rodriguez has toured much of the world in the last few years. Most recently, she has warmed up concerts for country stalwarts Lucinda Williams and John Prine, as well as headlining the Austin City Limits stage for PBS cameras. Although raised in Austin, Texas, Rodriguez currently hangs her boots in Brooklyn—a place where every niche can find a fan club—landing there by way of the Berklee School of Music, only 200 miles up the interstate, where she honed her fiddling skills and acquired an urban grit that spices up her sultry performances.

Rodriguez’s sound is as indebted to the empowered women of mid-‘90s rock (Alanis, Shirley, Tori) as to any well-coiffed lady of the Opry (Dolly, Loretta, Tammy), with her voice simmering evenly between anger and seduction. At times on her recordings, it is only the instrumentation (pedal steel, fiddle) that can qualify the tracks as “country,” falling more in line with radio-friendly pop balladry, exuding a commercial polish that has dominated the genre since the heyday of Shania Twain.

In a cultural climate where a young country star can convert mass-appeal into massive piles of money, Rodriguez is being presented as a brunette alternative to the Underwoods and Simpsons. Although Rodriguez co-authored every song on her last record, She Ain’t Me, she is still a few albums away from shaking off the calculated presentation of the various promoters and handlers depending on her to finance their summer homes. Her music is good, and her playing exemplary, but everything seems a little too deliberate. When Rodriguez is finally left to her own talents, the result will inevitably be more genuine and engrossing.

In all likelihood, her local appearance will be a straightforward affair. Rodriguez will be performing as a trio with the help of an electric guitar and bass, eliminating many of her atmospherics before zigzagging west of the Colorado River and Europe. Rodriguez can be a forceful fire-breather, anchored by her fiddle and rhythmic stomp; catch her New England-refined, Brooklyn-dwelling, Texas-grown heat before she gets that Pepsi endorsement.

To A Sheen @ The District

1 comment:

mood indigo said...

Well, for starters - neither Lucinda Williams nor John Prine consider themselves "country" and neither does anyone associated with country radio - ever. If this blog were UK based I'd consider the source and leave this point alone - as they ARE considered "country" in that market along with Wilco, Bonnie Raitt, etc. I think they just mean from THAT country - lol. Carrie also - has never been considered or marketed as country here. I think that she uses some instrumentation usually associated with "country" but so do the Grateful Dead, My Morning Jacket, etc. - you get the point.

In this country, she really hasn't been "marketed". Each of her solo records has been released as the labels associated with them have under gone political changes that found her actually - not marketed at all. What she's done instead is focus on building an audience from her live show and hope people discover her records by word of mouth & tour press. That she's been able to build her audience and tour so much is a testiment to her talent and the audience reaction to what they've witnessed.

As her manager (who will probably never have a Summer home), I have to disagree about what you imagine as calculated. The only thing that has been calculated was the recording process for her last album, She Ain't Me. She was asked to record songs for it that the label felt could be singles at pop radio. At the end of the day, Carrie refused to let those two songs make the record. As they just weren't her. Her decision to not be calculated as per the label - ultimately doomed her chances of being a priority for them. We did do a photo shoot that poked fun at the way artists are presented - it's glossy as hell. We had fun with it and the album is called "She Ain't Me". I guess the irony and humor of our attempt at satire some how didn't translate for you.

I do agree that where she's going will be more exciting than where she is - because she's an artist that takes chances & is growing. But I also think the three solo records and four duo records (w/Chip Taylor) she's released stand up very well and have earned their critical acclaim.

So, the show was SOLD OUT and she and her opening act on this tour - Romantica loved their experience in San Pedro. The Grand Annex was a charming room and the promoter a joy to work with. I suspect we'll be back next year (working with the same promoter) and I hope you'll come see the show. Meet Carrie afterwards. You'll discover that she's sweet - not so deliberate, but very geniune.