Carrie Rodriguez would get props just for the song selections she’s chosen for her third solo outing. Hot on the heels of two discs peppered with her own compositions, Rodriguez has opted for an all-covers collection that showcases her emergence as a strong singer easily able to make any song her own.
And what songs they are! With material from the likes of Ry Cooder and John Hiatt, Lucinda Williams, Townes Van Zandt, Merle Haggard, and Hank Williams, Rodriguez exhibits exquisite taste in tunes. But as Love And Circumstance shows, she doesn’t just pick great songs – she knocks ‘em out of the park, with renditions that range from big and bold (“Big Love,” the disc’s opener, and “Wide River To Cross” that follows) to the shimmery melancholy of “I’m Not For Love.”
With sympathetic production courtesy of Lee Townsend, Rodriguez leads her working band – guitarist Hans Holzen, bassist Kyle Kegerreis, and drummer Eric Platz – with a sure and steady hand, her own instrumental contributions (tenor guitar, fiddle, and mandolin) a subtle but essential element in the musical tapestry. Guests include pedal steel wiz Greg Liesz and guitarist Doug Wamble, with Buddy Miller contributing harmony vocals on a handful.
They’re all love songs of one sort or another, and Rodriguez is primarily reflective throughout – though a few tracks feature crunching guitars, most arrangements are subtle and subdued, with Rodriguez’ voice, earthy and ethereal at the same time, given lots of space. She’s wistful on a poignant cover of her father’s “When I Heard Gypsy Dave Sing,” and sultry on Lucinda William’s “Steal Your Love.” The only tune that doesn’t quite work is her rather exaggerated take on “Today I Started Loving You Again” – admittedly a song covered so often it begs a unique approach, here Rodriguez’ breathy hesitation is a bit distracting. She takes control of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” though, accompanied only by understated guitar and her own mandolin, and follows up with a stunning closer (“La Punalada Trapera”), sung in Spanish.
A little too laid back to break new ground, perhaps, but Love And Circumstance is nonetheless a superior collection of Americana-flavored country-pop, delivered with exquisite taste, and proves a fine showcase for Rodriguez’ marvelous voice and interpretive skills. Recommended!