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Chip Taylor And Carrie Rodriguez
Live From The Ruhr Triennale

Review By Steven Stone
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  Chip Taylor began making music professionally in 1961 when he signed a recording contract with Warner Brothers Records. His first big hit song was "Wild Thing" soon followed by "Angel of the Morning." His "Try (Just a little bit harder) was a hit for Janis Joplin. He also produced James Taylor's first album as well as songs for Neil Diamond. During the 70's and 80's Chip made six albums, and then left music to pursue professional gambling. He finished 3d in the World Black Jack competition in Las Vegas, and was subsequently banned from every casino in Atlantic City due to his card-counting prowess. Taylor then tried horse racing, partnering with renowned handicapper Ernest Dahlman to win several very lucrative "pick six" scores before returning to music in the early 90s. Since 1995 Taylor has released five solo albums.

Carrie Rodriguez' professional musical career began after playing an in-store gig with the band Hayseed at the 2001 South-by-Southwest music convention. Chip Taylor heard her show and asked her to join him in a duo act. The daughter of a folk musician, David Rodriguez, Carrie originally studied classical violin, but after sitting in with Lyle Lovett's big band during a rehearsal in Cleveland she decided to attend Berklee School of Music to study jazz with Matt Glaser. After graduation, she returned to Austin where she teamed up with Taylor.

Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez released their first album in 2002 Let's Leave This Town. In 2003 they followed up with a second album The Trouble With Humans. After these two very well received duo albums Carrie Rodriguez struck out on her own with her first solo album Seven Angels on a Bicycle in 2006. Some fans, including this writer, lamented that no new material was forthcoming from the duo. Trainwreck Records heard our sorrowful lamentations and has released Live from the Ruhr, a live set recorded at the Ruhr Triennial Festival in Germany in 2005.Halleluiah.

This live set features an outstanding back-up band. Festival curator and virtuoso jazz guitarist Bill Frisell joins Greg Leisz on steel guitar and mandolin, David Piltch on bass, and Kenny Wollesen on drums to form the core band. Cameo appearances by Katie Jackson and Denise Brown on background vocals and Buddy Miller on electric guitar happen on the set finale. Besides performing some of their previously recorded duo material such as "Let's Leave This Town," "Loredo," and Red Dog Tracks," Taylor and Rodriguez included a number of country standards including Lefty Frizell's "Long Black Veil," Johnny Cash's "Big River," and Chuck Berry's Maybellene." The set wraps up with the Taylor classics "Angel of the Morning" and "Wild Thing."

Bill Frisell brings a unique musical aesthetic to any project he works on. This live set is no exception. Frisell's spare yet resonant guitar lines contribute amazing depth and air to the arrangements. His simple yet tasteful solos remind me of what Chet Atkins might play while on potent painkillers slow, minimalist, yet musically correct. Greg Leisz' floating steel guitar lines also add to the airy and otherworldly quality of the music. When you combine Frisells' and Leisz's floating musical lines with Taylor and Rodriguez' rustic rootsy delivery you have a combination that captures both the earth below and heavens above of American roots music.

Recorded by Arnd Esser, mixed by Huck Bennert, and mastered by Mark Donahue, Live from the Ruhr ranks as among the best sounding live CDs I've ever heard. Its imaging, spatial accuracy, harmonic balance, and overall resolution are as good as it gets on a red-book specification (44.1/16 bit) CD.  Even when everyone kicks up the volume a notch, such as on the final song "Wild Thing," the sonics remain clear. Live from the Ruhr is simply fantastic ear candy.

 

 

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