Carrie Rodriguez and Ben Kyle We still Love our Country.

Carrie Rodriguez has slowly carved out a name for herself over the past few years in the Americana field. Originally teaming up with veteran Chip Taylor her voice and fiddle made their four albums together a delight before launching a solo career. Here she returns to a duet format in tandem with Ben Kyle from the mid west band Romantica on an album that basically does what it says on the tin, proclaiming their love of country. Kyle’s youthful vocals replace Taylor’s sepia toned veteran’s voice and the pair of them sing wonderfully together on a selection of six covers and two originals. With a fine band in the shape of Luke Jacobs on pedal steel, Hans Holzen, guitars, Kyle Kegerreis, bass and Ricky Fataar on drums the playing is sweet and tender and always sympathetic.
Kyle’s Your Lonely Heart opens the album and immediately recalls classic vocal duos such as Tammy and George or Dolly and Porter on a humbucking country jaunt with exuberant fiddle guitar and pedal steel. A fine start. The other original song, Fire Alarm, penned by Rodriguez and Kyle is a rollicking rendition of a bickering couple who find their faults but stick together. The meat of the album however is in the covers which are in the main ballads, delivered with an intensity that raises the album well above that of a covers collection. Townes Van Zandt’s If I Needed You is given a reverential treatment with a shuffling rhythm and delicate fiddle playing. Kyle’s vocals come into focus here. He’s got a fine voice, slightly worn, wispy, vulnerable, perfectly matched to Rodriguez’s voice. They repeat this feat on their version of John Prine’s lachrymose Unwed Fathers but the gem here is Chip Taylor’s Big Kiss where their voices melt into each other with an ebb and flow that is spinetingling.
Squirrelling away throughout the album is the memory of what some might call the supreme male/female team of alt country, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. It’s reinforced with the inclusion of You’re Still On My Mind, a song Parsons sang with the Byrds and which Emmylou has covered. Rodriguez and Kyle grab the bull by the horns on the last song, their version of Love Hurts, a song covered by many but within the Americana idiom owned by Emmylou and Gram via their version on Grievous Angel. Kyle acknowledges this saying “ Gram and Emmy were a deep inspiration for this project and so you can say we chose this song as an acknowledgement or a sort of homage to them.” Suffice to say that the shivers sent up the spine on listening to this proves that they can carry this off.
A short album, only 30 minutes long, it’s a miniature gem and well worth grabbing a hold of.
Rodriguez is touring the UK later this month with a date at Edinburgh’s Cabaret Voltaire on Thursday 27th October.
Carrie Rodriguez website
Ben Kyle wbsite

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