An unlikely pairing, the association between New Yorker Chip Taylor and Texan Carrie Rodriguez, the former a songwriting legend and rock ‘n’ roller, the latter a classically trained violinist who’d never sung lead before, has been fruitful enough to result in a greatest hits collection of sorts. The New Bye And Bye collects tracks from the duo’s first four recordings and adds four new songs written specifically for this outing.
“It’s a good thing,” goes the refrain on “Your Name Is On My Lips,” the new composition that kicks things off, and the words ring true. Taylor’s compositions are generally quiet and contemplative, rarely rising above a whisper, with a thoroughly adult approach to love and the redemption it brings – check out the title track, a back-and-forth duet that begins with Rodriguez calling Taylor’s protagonist an “untrustworthy bastard” and a “selfish dumb son of a bitch.” Yet by song’s end it’s apparent the two singers share a deep and unassailable bond, and love does indeed conquer all ‘in the new bye and bye.’
It’s a remarkable tune, delivered with a pitch-perfect mixture of resignation and hope – the glue, indeed, that keeps most adult relationships together. Taylor’s world-weary vocals are the very definition of laconic, while Rodriguez’ easy drawl expresses a world of hard-earned womanly wisdom. They’re both alike and profoundly different – very much like most couples, in fact – and the result is a disarming honesty that’s candid and at times startling.
Elsewhere there are tracks from each of the duo’s one live and three studio albums, with live versions of Taylor’s best-known songs – “Angel Of The Morning” and “Wild Thing” (yes, he wrote the Troggs’ garage-band classic) that feature stellar contributions from guitar greats Bill Frisell and Greg Leisz, with the addition of Buddy Miller on “Wild Thing.” Also on hand for a number of studio tracks is guitarist John Platonia, known for his extensive work with Van Morrison.
But while instrumental contributions (including Rodriguez’ fiddle) are uniformly excellent throughout, it’s Taylor’s quirky compositions and the simple, unaffected harmonies, ragged yet righteous, that make this collection so special. Shot through with wistful melancholy and unflinching honesty, every song is a minor masterpiece, and Taylor and Rodriguez blend their voices together like coffee and cream, the results a rich blend that’s smooth yet endlessly intriguing.