Seven Angels On A Bicycle, her solo debut, puts an urbane, seductive spin on alternative country and bluegrass, with artfully minimalist production that features melancholy echoes of pedal steel, finger-plucked fiddle strings, brushed snare, a whisper of saxophone and plenty of wide open space for Rodriguez's remarkable voice to fill. Rodriguez boasts an affecting twang and brings a wonderfully lived-in quality to her vocal performances. There's an intimacy, honesty and sexual frankness within them that makes Rodriguez's every breath worth hanging on to. Her listeners immediately become her confidantes. All the while she and co-producer Taylor push musical boundaries, stripping country-style tunes to their emotional and melodic essence. There's an Austin-style warmth on these tracks, counter-balanced with New York City sophistication.
Although this is officially singer/fiddler Carrie Rodriguez's solo debut, her musical mentor Chip Taylor--with whom she has recorded three previous discs of duets--is an integral ingredient. Taylor wrote or co-wrote all but one track and is also the album's producer. With Seven Angels on a Bicycle
, the partnership that worked so well on Red Dog Tracks
, The Trouble With Humans
, and Let's Leave This Town
has yielded another winner. The songs shift between folk, country, and even jazz, the latter aided by the amazing Bill Frisell, whose delicate, restrained textures and effects create an introspective mood as much as Rodriguez's lovely, sensitive voice. Much of this atmospheric release floats by with barely-there percussion, haunting tunes, and a languid yet exquisite sense of subtlety rare in contemporary music. Rodriguez goes into hoedown mode only once--on the frisky "Never Going to Be Your Bride"--but her fiddle colors these songs in muted shades that perfectly enhance their emotional concerns. She's a stirring singer--somewhat like Suzanne Vega--whose vocal innocence in tracks like "This Kiss" provides a perfect counterpoint for lyrics predominantly concerned with lost love and lovers. This is a stark, beautiful set of pensive songs that results in a low-key jewel of an album made for listening, not dancing. The talented Rodriguez needs no further proof that she is very much ready for prime time. --Hal Horowitz