Carrie Rodriguez Coming to Play in the North State
By Phil Reser
By Phil Reser
Photo courtesy of CarrieRodriguez.com
Singer/songwriter, fiddle and tenor guitar player Carrie Rodriguez has emerged over the last decade as one of the most compelling new voices on the American roots-rock scene.
The classically trained daughter of the late Texan singer-songwriter, David Rodriguez, she started playing violin when she was still a tiny girl.
“I started out playing with my father in clubs in Austin, Texas, where I grew up,” she recalls. “I was a classical violinist who was used to reading notes on a page, but he would sing me little melodies and tell me what to play. That was my first taste of musical improvising on the fiddle while accompanying him on songs. Later on, when I started backing up other singer/songwriters, I automatically felt very comfortable because of those gigs with my father.”
For her first year in college, she enrolled at the Oberlin Music Conservatory, a classical school. “I found myself spending way more time in my dorm room playing along with Hank Williams records than practicing my Bach,” she says. “I was homesick, missing Texas, missing the music from Austin. And then, halfway through that first year, an old friend of my father’s, Lyle Lovett, invited me to to his show in Cleveland. He was playing with his band and knew from my father I was playing the violin and invited me to come and sit in at their sound check.”
His band was mostly performing swing, and she didn’t have any experience in that setting, she says.
“I think that I sounded pretty awful, but I loved it,” she says. “I watched the whole show, completely blown away with Lyle’s fiddle player and backup singer Andrea Zonn. She had grown up as a classical violinist also and had become fluent in numerous other musical genres. I found out that besides Lyle, she along with another fiddle player, Alison Krauss, had worked in this cool bluegrass band called Union Station and that night at that concert, I knew I wanted to be doing what she was doing.”
She started listening to other fiddle players – “anything I could get my hands on, I’d listen to over and over again to learn how to copy the styles. Eventually I found my own way through all of that.”
Making her name working alongside mentor Chip Taylor, the veteran songwriter known for 1960s hits “Wild Thing” and the Merrilee Rush smash “Angel of the Morning,” the two of them released four collections of duets before Rodriguez struck out on her debut, “Seven Angels on a Bicycle.”
2010’s “Love and Circumstance” was her collection of covers by Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Townes Van Zandt and her father along with hits by Lucinda Williams, Julie Miller and M. Ward.
Rodriguez followed that album up with “Give Me All You Got,” love songs written by herself, band member Luke Jacobs and her old friend, Taylor.
This year’s new solo record, “Lola,” is a bilingual collection of ranchera-inspired originals by Rodriguez in English, Spanish and “Spanglish,” coupled with Spanish songs written by some of her favorite Mexican composers.
“I had started listening to the music of my great aunt, Eva Garza, who sang in Spanish. She was Mexico’s number one singer in the ‘40s and recorded on Columbia’s Decca Records during the ‘50s. She was an incredible ballad singer in the style of Bolero. Her first recordings were in the late 1930s. Secondly, I’m married to a Spanish musician, and we speak Spanish at home. It’s actually a big part of my life but has never been a part of my musical life until now. However, when I have sung in Spanish, I turn into a different person. So, ‘Lola’ is the album I dreamed about for many years, inspired by the rich landscape of blended cultures that I call home and Texas.”
Sunday, June 5th
Sierra Nevada Big Room, Chico