After four years as one half of a duo with the legendary Chip Taylor, Carrie Rodriguez has stepped out on her own with her first solo effort, Seven Angels on a Bicycle. Although a majority of the songs still bear Taylor's songwriting touch, Seven Angels on a Bicycle finds Rodriguez plumbing the depths of traditional country as well as experimenting stylistically. The end result is a tenacious collection of love-themed songs tied together by Rodriguez's brassy contralto.
The title track begins the proceedings with a jaunty country-folk melody accented by pedal steel and a soft sax solo. "Never Gonna Be Your Bride" changes the pace with a fiddle intro and a rousing country-rock feel, while "Dirty Leather" features more prevalent rock undercurrents along with a haunting refrain. The slow-moving country ballad "He Ain't Jesus" is at once soothing and mournful, and the Mindy Smith-inspired "Waterbound" is an ominous Appalachian ditty with interlocking fiddle and pedal steel. The funky '60s rock love song "'50s French Movie" closes the first half of the CD on a high note.
Honky-tonk attitude prevails on the rocker "I Don't Want to Play House Anymore," and rock, bluegrass and country converge on the tender love song "Before You Say Another Word." The lost love ballad "Big Kiss" sounds like the work of a pop singer-songwriter. "Got Your Name On It" features perhaps the most drastic mood changes on the album, beginning as eerie fiddle, pedal steel, and percussion before crescendoing into a sophisticated country mosey. "He's Already Gone" is Rodriguez's only miscue on Seven Angels on a Bicycle, with maudlin lyrics of lost love and a country-pop sensibility. The closer "St. Peter's" makes up for this misstep with Rodriguez employing religious imagery along with vocals that range from soft, little girl whispers to soaring wails.
On the whole, Seven Angels on a Bicycle showcases Rodriguez the solo performer, the fiddler, the vocalist, and the songwriter to varying degrees. The CD shines for both its subtle and brazen moments, its intellect and emotiveness. Seven Angels on a Bicycle is a poignant, emotional journey worth the price of admission. • Tracy M. Rogers
see our interview with Carrie Rodriguez & Chip Taylor
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