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Carrie Rodriguez has blossomed from a reluctant background singer to a confident lead vocalist in just four albums. On her first two duo albums with Chip Taylor, Carrie only did harmony vocals. By 2003's Trouble With Humans Carrie graduated to lead vocals. Now on her first solo release Carrie demonstrates that she has the chops to lead her own band.
Longtime Carrie Rodriguez/Chip Taylor duo fans need not despair that their creative collaboration has come to an end. Chip Taylor co-produced and wrote or co-wrote all but one tune on the album. Taylor also plays acoustic guitar along with jazzman Bill Frisell on electric guitar, Greg Leisz on pedal steel, lap steel, and dobro, Victor Krauss on upright bass, Kenny Wollesen on drums, Jaymer Vercher on saxophone, and Richie Stearns on banjo.
If you are unfamiliar with Carrie Rodriguez, she began her professional career in 2000 as a fiddle player. She overcame her early classical training by studying at Berklee School of music in Boston with jazz/bluegrass fiddler Matt Glaser. After returning to her hometown of Austin, Texas, she connected with veteran songwriter Chip Taylor (of "Wild Thing" and "Angels of the Morning") to form a duo act. Her fiddle playing has just the right combination of suavity and Texas spice, but throughout most of Seven Angels on A Bicycle her fiddle playing takes a backseat to her lead singing. On the opening title cut Carrie demonstrates how to deliver a vocal without appearing to work very hard. Her laidback singing reminds me of a Texas icon by the name of Willie Nelson. Both gravitate toward a singing style based on never seeming to sweat. But unlike many rock singers where a laidback delivery means a lack of emotion, this Texas style of vocals eliminates extraneous frills, thereby increasing the music's impact.
All too often when someone "goes solo" they loose the part of their musical personality that made them interesting. Soul gets traded in for slickness. On Seven Angels on a Bicycle Carrie Rodriguez manages to retain her unique regional individuality. If you like your music rootsy and real you owe yourself a good listen to Seven Angels on a Bicycle.