Carrie Rodriguez / Chip Taylor

Live from the Ruhr Triennale

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If you're a fan of roots rock and Texas country music, then this disc will kind of take your breath away before you even hear a note. The pairing of singer/songwriter Chip Taylor and fiddler/singer Carrie Rodriguez has been an inspired one ever since they started making albums together in 2002. On this live album (recorded in Germany at the triennial celebration of the Ruhr region) they are joined by a band that includes pedal steel player Greg Leisz as well as -- get this -- famed jazz/country/experimental guitarist Bill Frisell. The music is by turns soulful and rollicking, with dips into the old book of country standards (Merle Haggard's "Today I Started Loving You Again," Johnny Cash's "Big River") and the slightly less old book of rock & roll standards (Chuck Berry's "Maybellene," Taylor's own "Wild Thing"). Most of the remainder are relatively contemporary songs written by Taylor, and several things jump out at you about them: Taylor's own strong voice, Rodriguez's gorgeously reedy harmony vocals, and the almost otherworldly beauty of the live arrangements. A good portion of the credit for that beauty goes to Frisell, who is at his best in a setting like this -- spinning out his heartbreakingly lovely guitar lines in ringing, shimmering layers. But even if he were absent, songs like the Taylor/Rodriguez duet "Once Again One Day You Will Be Mine" and the quasi-religious "Oh Set a Light" would stand beautifully on their own. Not to mention Rodriguez's sturdily rocking arrangement of the traditional fiddle tune "Elzic's Farewell" and the two numbers that close out the set -- a quiet version of "Angel of the Morning" (yes, that's a Taylor song as well) and a startlingly sexy version of "Wild Thing." Brilliant.

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