Carrie Rodriguez at Jammin' Java, Vienna, VA, Sunday 14 December 2008
Carrie Rodriguez began her career as Chip Taylor's sidekick, first as a fiddle player in his band, then as his duet partner on three albums. She released her first solo album two years ago. And her headlining set at Jammin' Java on Sunday night showed just how comfortable she has become in the spotlight.
Rodriguez played most of her 90-minute set with a backing band (guitarist Hans Holzen and upright bassist Kyle Kegerreis), but she truly shined on two solo numbers mid-set. There aren't a lot of solo violin numbers in pop music, but her fiddle-playing on "Keep You From the Cold" hardly sounded thin with her brassy voice. More impressively, though, "The Big Mistake" showcased her outstanding vocal control against her solo acoustic guitar. Rodriguez has mastered the power of vocal dynamics; it's hard to believe she was just a backup singer a few years ago, given how naturally and fluidly her voice grew from a whisper to a belt.
That skill kept Rodriguez's set engaging, even when she was at her most generic ("El Salvador" in particular was a bit bland). Her various instruments also helped give each song a different sound -- but she seemed most at home with a fiddle in her hands, especially on the feisty up-tempo number "Never Gonna Be Your Bride" and on the softly plucked verses of the more defiant "I Don't Want to Play House Anymore."
-- Catherine P. Lewis
.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 16 December 2008; Page C05