in performance: carrie rodriguez

carrie rodriguez.

How do you upstage a blizzard, or at least the closest weather event Lexington can muster that would approximate a blizzard? Well, you start by showcasing a Texas song stylist and instrumentalist that Lexington audiences have watched grow from an accomplished but somewhat wallflower-like accompanist into the kind of bright and commanding headliner whose songs are perhaps best suited to the faux-spring weather we enjoyed only two days ago.

In fact, just as the snow gusts started to pick up outside Natasha’s last night, songstress/violinist guitarist Carrie Rodriguez was inside reflecting upon a show she gave here in 2002 with New York songsmith Chip Taylor at the long defunct High on Rose. Exactly how much difference does a decade make? Well, for starters the years have empowered Rodriguez with a potent vocal wail and an expert sense of phrasing. Both were in abundance during the slyly lyrical 50s French Movie, the more elemental (but no less elegant) I Cry for Love and a thoroughly arresting cover of the Merle Haggard staple I Started Loving You Again where her singing grew from hushed reflection to a serious country wail.

Then there were the tunes, which shifted from the vividly original (the finger-popping love song Lake Harriett and the touching, affirmative eulogy Seven Angels on a Bicycle) to the cleverly appropriated (the set-closing I Don’t Mind Waiting, which sounded like a prairie version of Bob Dylan’s I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight).

Finally there was the obvious instrumental maturity. Rodriguez has never been shy about displaying her classical chops in performance. But the musical interplay that developed between her and the splendid acoustic/electric/lap steel guitarist Luke Jacobs last night also brought out instrumentation that incorporated pre-bluegrass country (I Don’t Want to Play House Anymore), Celtic mischief (Waterbound) and swampy ambience (the show-opening Devil in Mind).

All of these elements beautifully collided in the encore version of La Punalada Trapera, a stunning piece of ranchera balladry draped with light guitar and violin orchestration and sung by Rodriguez with almost operatic passion and depth.

“The title, roughly translated, means ‘The Treacherous Backstab,’ Rodriguez said. “Just a little love song to send you home with.”

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