Carrie Rodriguez and Ben Kyle: We Still Love Our Country

Together, the pair complement each other’s strengths and make each track worthy of belonging on a honky tonk jukebox.

Carrie Rodriguez and Ben Kyle

We Still Love Our Country

Label: Ninth Street Opus
US Release Date: 2011-02-02
UK Release Date: Import

Why did two noted singer/songwriters get together to record an album of mostly classic country tunes penned by other artists? Who knows? The important thing is that the duo sounds like it is having a good time and pleasurably reinterpreting the material. Austin fiddler Carrie Rodriguez knows how to wrap her voice around a tune as well as let her instrument wail, weep, and laugh in accompaniment. And Romantica’s Ben Kyle understands the importance of keeping the music earnest, even deadpan, no matter how serious or silly the song. Together, the pair complement each other’s strengths and make each track worthy of belonging on a honky tonk jukebox.

There is something lightweight about the nature of the endeavor, which endows the disc with a beguiling charm. Part of this may be due to the album’s brevity. The eight songs clock in at less than 30 minutes. But it’s also due to the nature of the material. Their duet on John Prine’s “Unwed Fathers” brings out the dry humor wrapped in the pathos of the story of a boy whose girl has to run away to a home for unwed mothers because he won‘t own up to his responsibilities. The narrator feels sorrier for himself than for the trouble he caused. You can almost taste the tears in the beer he’s too young to buy.

On the other hand, the duo’s original composition, “Fire Alarm”, comes with a tune that seems almost plagiarized from Prine’s comic duet with Iris DeMent, “In Spite of Ourelves”. Rodriguez and Kyle count down each other’s faults (“he snores all night/ his teeth are crooked” versus “she ain’t that tall/and she talks kinda funny”) but join together to croon how they “turn each other on like a fire alarm”. You get the feeling they are right for each other simply because they are too eccentric for anybody else -- just a couple of oddballs who found the right mate.

When the two get more serious, such as on Chip Taylor’s (Rodriguez’s former musical partner) “Big Kiss”, the effect bristles with electricity because the intensity is turned down a notch. They perform the song at a slow, steady pace that understates what they're feeling. This makes their surprise at finding out the other person may love them more of a shock than a foregone conclusion.

This sincerity also comes across on Townes Van Zandt’s classic “If I Needed You”, and makes the oft-covered song fresh again. They keep the singing simple and allow Luke Jacobs’ pedal steel guitar playing, Kyle Kegerreis’ upright bass thumping, and Ricky Fataar's brush drumming carry the melody forward and decoratively weave in and out of the forefront of the mix.

While any country duets album begs to be compared to the masterpieces of the past by such notables as George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash and June Carter, etc., the duo beg the question here by singing Boudleaux Bryant’s “Love Hurts” almost note for note like Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris used to do. It’s no insult to say Rodriguez and Kyle do not surpass the past masters. The intent seems more to pay tribute to their forbears. Which again begs the question, why would two noted singer/songwriters put out a record of other people’s songs? Who knows? The important thing is that the disc offers plenty of pleasure and enjoyment, and the pair sounds like it had a good time making it. No new ground may be broken here, but as Neil Young used to wryly sing, “In the field of opportunity, it’s plowing time again”. We Still Love Our Country offers the occasion to enjoy good country music, and that’s reason enough to reseed familiar ground.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.