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Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez - The Trouble With Humans

The Trouble With Humans

Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez

2003, Train Wreck Records TMG-LS 4011

Train Wreck Records
22 Jones St.
Suite 6E
New York, NY 10014
Tel: (212) 966-7443

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Michael Devlin

Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez are a study in opposites. He's the renowned songwriter who had a recording contract by 1961. She wouldn't even be born for another couple of decades. Rodriguez has curly dark hair and a Texas twang, Taylor is a native New Yorker with straight silver locks. His singing is soft and often half-spoken. She has the kind of voice that could snap an errant cowboy to attention, then make him fall hopelessly in love. They are both talented and tasteful on their instruments, Taylor on guitar and harmonica and Rodriguez on fiddle. They have attracted an impressive band for this album with John McGann on guitar and mandolin and Dave Mattacks on drums. Guest musicians include Lloyd Maines, Earl Poole Ball and Red Volkhaert.

On this their second album together, they flirt with the notion of them as a couple in the themes and lyrics of the songs, even though this impression is put to rest in the liner notes. Still they manage to generate a believable chemistry and it's fun to play along. Although their pose may be coy, the duets are as rich and nuanced as a mature relationship. Taylor often gives Rodriguez lyrics that portray a complex and strong woman capable of passion as direct as the Texas sun.

Chip Taylor has been a gifted songwriter for a long time, but one can't help noticing the extra sparkle in songs that were obviously written with Carrie Rodriguez's strengths as a singer and persona in mind. There are songs with a smile and a wink, such as All The Rain, cowritten with Rodriguez. It's a song about people trying to tear apart a couple because they are different. Although the woman in the song is apparently from a foreign shore, there are surely sly allusions when Rodriguez sings "Didn't they tell you/ There's something wrong with her accent" in her deepest Texas drawl.

Memphis, Texas, also cowritten by the duo, would also be easy to think of as a song about their relationship. They define themselves in the lyrics, with Rodriguez singing
I'm a dusty old road by the back of the barn
With the wind blown cross me on this panhandle farm
I'm a sky with no end just tryin' to rain
When the ground's gettin' thirsty-that's who I am
He counters
I'll be askin' your name-standing my ground
'Cause I'm New York and stubborn-and I ain't leavin' this town
But I've got this need to know you just as fast as I can
So I'll be uncomfortably who are you again?

Simultaneous to the playful interplay of these polar attractives are themes that delve into deeper, more complicated relationships. The importance of unspoken language is central to several of the songs, including the album opening Don't Speak in English, "You can let it go-get it right from your soul/ But don't say words I understand." Curves and Things begins, "Some words should hit the air like silence." The Trouble With Humans states, "I don't want to talk it-I just want to feel it." The song continues:
The trouble with humans-is they're only human
The Trouble with trouble-is it's always at hand
But if we don't look around it-if we look right on through it
We'll find the power-together we'll stand

This is obviously the stuff of decades of loving relationships.

It would be easy to go on quoting lyrics from this record, but as exquisite as they are, they only tell part of the story. The songs, whether spiritual or sensual, entwine images with melody and words with soul-touching voices. As an album, it is beautifully paced and impressive to the very end. There is even a hidden track, a sharp jab at the commercial music establishment and a nice pat on the back for the independent DJ's who play the finest of music-like this completely satisfying album.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2004, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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