An Expert Collection Of Sadder-But-Wiser Country Love Songs
After breaking onto the country scene in the early 2000s with a series of albums with Chip Taylor, Carrie Rodriguez struck out on her own with Seven Angels On A Bicycle in 2006. Now, a decade after her first record with Taylor, Rodriguez returns with her third solo album, Give Me All You Got. Having grown up the daughter of songwriter David Rodriguez and worked with a string of mentors that includes legends such as Taylor and Lucinda Williams - both artists having a reputation for both longevity and consistency - it’s no surprise that her latest album is one her strongest yet.
Rodriguez may have first made her name as a wicked fiddler and Chip Taylor mentee, but many of the album’s more middling songs such as the opening duo of “Devil In Mind” and “Sad Joy” sound like disappointing re-treads of this old sound. The stronger material here is that which sees her exploring different dynamics such as “Get Back In Love”. Written by collaborator Ben Kyle, it’s an aching plea for romance backed by soft finger-picked guitar and drenched in luscious pedal steel. “Cut Me Now” is another expertly-constructed exercise in pacing. Built around an angrily-distorted guitar, the song always seems poised to explode into searing catharsis but never quite does, opting to draw out the gorgeous tension built by Rodriguez’s weary vocals.
Give Me All You Got is centered around love songs and while, “Get Back In Love” and “Cut Me Now”, focus on the downbeat side of romance, there’s plenty of optimism to be had here as well. Named after a one of Minnesota’s 10,000 such bodies, “Lake Harriet” is one such delightful excursion, with sunshine-y lyrics about falling in love and a happily plunking guitar to match. Similarly, “Whiskey Runs Thicker Than Blood” is a bittersweet but bouncy song finding Rodriguez looking for love but guarding her heart. The meandering “Brooklyn” is another highlight. It’s a song that perfectly encapsulates that feeling you get after a bad breakup of the intense desire to get as far away as you can from a person, a relationship and a city all at the same time.
But the record’s most affecting song has to be the duet “I Don’t Mind Waiting”. where Rodriguez shares the singing and songwriting with her guitarist Luke Jacobs. “Come and find me in your dream tonight” she begins over the simplest of acoustic guitars, adding “I’ve only been waiting since time began.” Her and Jacobs soon fall into an easy harmony, voices melding with a mellow fiddle part that acts as soft, feathery wings on which the song doesn’t so much fade out as float away – the effect is enchanting.
Tough but sweet, realistic but sanguine, Give Me All You Got shows Carrie Rodriguez learning and growing both musically and personally. The weary wisdom that underlies the best songs here is country songwriting at its best, taking heartbreak and regret and making it redemptive and therefore hopeful. After growing up in the shadow of her father, then making her name as a junior collaborator with more established artists, Rodriguez’s fourth album further establishes her as a great country talent in her own right.