Carrie Rodriquez' second solo release marks a radical departure from her Americana roots toward the bright lights and big city sounds of modern pop music. Since her first recorded appearance in 2002 with Chip Taylor on Let's Leave This Town where she had to be coaxed to sing backing vocals, Rodriguez has mutated from a virtuoso fiddler who sang occasionally into a singer/songwriter who sometimes takes a solo on fiddle.
Longtime Carrie Rodriquez/Chip Taylor fans will probably miss Chip's musical thumbprint on Carrie's latest release. Instead of Taylor in the producer's chair Malcolm Burn, who has worked with Emmy Lou Harris on her Wrecking Ball CD and Chris Whitley on Living With the Law, brings his own unique sensibilities to She Ain't Me. The resulting album is less predictable with more emphasis on Rodriquez musical individuality than her links with traditional folk forms. Ten of the eleven tunes on the album were written or co-written by Rodriguez with the only non-original song penned by Burn. None of these tunes could be mistaken for conventional material. All feature unusual chord changes, suspensions, and bridges that meander back to the songs' heads in unpredictable ways. Some tunes, such as "Absence," hint at older folk forms, with its backbone formed by a fiddle riff, but the song's mood and texture has evolved well past any traditional song form.
On first look and listen I wasn't immediately won over by Rodriquez' new musical direction. The cover photograph of Rodriquez looking like Twiggy's Latin-American cousin seemed like something spit out by Joni Mitchell's "star-making machinery" rather than a personal artistic choice. But after several listens the music on She Ain't Me it begins to stand on its own. In many ways it would be better if Rodriguez had never released any music prior to She Ain't Me. This CD redefines her music in such a profound way that her earlier material only gets in the way of responding to Rodriguez' new identity. I encourage any and all Carrie Rodriguez fans to give She Ain't Me more than a single perfunctory audition. It's the sort of album that reveals its true self only on multiple exposures.