Words by: David Higdon | Images by: Leah Yetter
Carrie Rodriguez/Romantica :: 11.18.08 :: Eddie's Attic :: Decatur, GA
The connection between a musical artist and their craft is a personal one that begins as an exploration of internal creativity that is ultimately shared with strangers to garnish a reaction. Studio creativity and live setting creativity are vastly different; the takes, the levels, the overdubs have all been decided upon when we begin our relationship with a studio album. However, it is a true musician who, in a live setting, doesn't try to recreate the album's delivered format but rather attempts to discover the creative magic in that immediate moment of opportunity. With a considerate, focused crowd, the intimate Eddie's Attic allowed for this magic to unfold before the audience as the double bill of Americana songwriters Romantica and Texas siren Carrie Rodriguez both felt that inspired metamorphosis burn with originality on this crisp Georgia night.
Romantica is a band whose musical compass points in all directions, both musically and lyrically. Originally hailing from Ireland, principle songwriter Ben Kyle has found a quality group of musicians in his current home of Minneapolis. Whether it is Luke Jacobs' pedal steel blowing wistful notes into a musical wind on the delicate opener "God Walks on the Water," Tony Zaccardi's warm bass adding to the Devils and Dust Springsteen outtake feel of the Mexican town on "Ixcatan," or the best Ryan Adams song not actually written by him, "The Dark," with Kyle's comparable vocal delivery, Romantica filled the venue with an honesty that didn't rely on theatrics or decibels to enrapture the audience. Interconnecting along this musical map of travel, Carrie Rodriguez joined the group on fiddle for an homage to the group's favorite St. Paul watering hole, "The Turf Club." The sense of musical looseness was followed by hugs all around, indicating that this would not be the last that we saw of the Romantica boys at this show.
Some artists are blessed by such a humbling personality that ego never becomes an interfering factor in their craft, even as an audience watches a legacy growing right before their eyes. With a gift for songwriting, a love of performing, eye-catching beauty and an Austin accent warm enough to slather on toast, multi-instrumentalist Carrie Rodriguez fills any room simply with her smile and lack of pretense.
With Rodriguez on the mandobird and joined only by Hans Holzen on guitar and Kyle Keggereis on stand up bass, this minimal outfit opened with the musically sparse "Dirty Leather" before seductively offering "Seven Angels on a Bicycle." The delivery of the line, "Don't he look good," with its breathy vocals and stage sway, makes any listener jealous that Rodriguez is "following him right to town." Picking up the fiddle for the evening's first song from her new album She Ain't Me, "Absence" brought the Appalachian groove as Keggereis' bass added the backdrop to Rodriguez's up-tempo fiddle work and Hans' rollicking Smokey Mountain guitar solo. Delivering the lyric "absence is the hardest truth" with a foot stomp for emphasis added a union between the lyrics and the fiddle work before switching gears to a completely different reworking of "50s French Movie." Unlike the rock 'n' roll full band version, this was a jazzy hip speakeasy approach, which highlighted the sexy delivery of Rodriguez's lyrics. She crooned, "You could render me shameless but you don't even whisper my name," and crawled across the stage aided by the nightclub bass that had the audience grinning right along with the band.
|Romantica :: 11.18 :: GA|
Rodriguez took a moment to address the great Chip Taylor ("Wild Thing," "Angel of the Morning"), her collaborator for five albums, as the individual who first encouraged her to sing and to write. The audience wanted to write Chip a letter of thanks for that encouragement after hearing the Dolly Parton-style twang of "I Don't Want to Play House Anymore." But, this was only the beginning of the vocal and musical range that Rodriguez and her band are capable of delivering. Another musical legend that received a nod of thanks was Lucinda Williams who chose Rodriguez's solo debut, Seven Angels on a Bicycle, as part of her Top Ten playlist for the New York Times. Rodriguez picked up the guitar Lucinda style for a lover's daydream cover of "Steal Your Love." The result was a slowed down version that gave you a woozy feeling.
Preparing to embark on a solo U.K. tour early next year, Rodriguez kept with the guitar as her bandmates cleared the stage. To an audience, the bare honesty that comes from a woman singing from experience, alone with an acoustic guitar, is introspectively enlightening and innocently seductive at the same time. "Big Mistake" was played with conviction and assurance, which indicates Rodriguez is more than ready to hold a stage on her own.
|Carrie Rodriguez & Romantica :: 11.18 :: GA|
Eager to continue the musical interaction, Rodriguez invited Holzen and Keggereis back up, but this time with drummer Jim Orvis from Romantica on board for a rousing rendition of a song made famous by Bill Monroe, "You Won't be Satisfied that Way." Complete with fiddle breakdowns and Orvis playing double time, the night's fun was exemplified by Luke Jacobs once again taking over pedal steel duties for the title track off She Ain't Me. The evening's newly formed band would drop out for Rodriguez's driving reading of the verse, "You took me to the water, but told me not to look straight down/ but I did/ the more I found, the more you hid," and when they all hit back in they were rocking and very generous with passing around the solos.
The farthest musical trips of the evening took us first to South America for a Spanish rendition of a song from the golden era of radio. Rodriguez's great aunt originally recorded "A Treacherous Stab Wound" in the '40s, and Rodriguez sang the song with such authenticity that those in attendance could have viewed it as the evening's closing credits. But Ben Kyle once again took the stage with an acoustic guitar and Rodriguez's fiddle for a slow, honest rendition of the Irish ballad "Danny Boy."
The evening's final sendoff had both bands onstage for a good time version of "Say, Darling, Say." This true encore, of sorts, makes perfect sense. The show at Eddie's Attic was about the music and the camaraderie that manifests itself when artists with a pocketful of songs find themselves around a stage full of instruments. The moment could never be duplicated, and the magic that comes with seizing an opportunity was something each of us were able to walk away with.
Ben Kyle of Romantica w/ Carrie Rodriguez "Danny Boy" - 11/18 - Decatur, GA
Carrie Rodriguez is on tour now. Dates available here.
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