in performance: carrie rodriguez and luke jacobs

carrie and luke

luke jacobs and carrie rodriquez.

The running gag throughout the winter respite performance Carrie Rodriguez and Luke Jacobs offered last night at Natasha’s was Valentine’s Day – specifically, an impending show the two were booked for at a Kansas City club called Knucklehead’s. The juxtaposition of sentiments and intent such a setting presented won the duo a few laughs. But there was something telling about it, too, as the majority of the 75 minute set was devoted to a variety of tunes suited for the most devout as well as skeptical of Valentines.

For Austin, Tx. fiddler/songsmith Rodriguez (who also colored the music on occasion with 4 string tenor guitar and electric mandolin), the love songs often possessed a light, limber feel, from the finger-popping glide of Lake Harriett to the summery stride of Get Back in Love.

But Rodriguez’s tunes also took flight from conventional love song themes and structures. Sad Joy and the title tune from her 2006 album Seven Angels on a Bicycle were essentially eulogies even though their messages of love were no less profound. The latter was also beefed up by lap steel guitar runs by Jacobs that allowed the song’s folkish reflection to take a Pink Floyd-ian turn. And for pure nasty fun, Rodriguez let the Valentine’s mood turn electric and earthy on Devil in Mind, I Cry for Love and especially Got Your Name On It. Those ought to go over well for happy hour at Knucklehead’s.

A tasteful, studied instrumentalist and accompanist, Jacobs offered songs with a more humorous but obtuse feel. Among them were the Faust-ian Margarete, which the guitarist said was designed as a 3 ½  minute country music distillation of a 3 ½ hour opera, and Providence and Mystery, which was prefaced by an amusing story of hitchhiking with a pair of drug dealers during the dead of winter in Minnesota.

Jacobs’ songs and instrumentation were continually engaging as was Rodriguez’s singing which proved adaptable enough to stretch its folky intimacy into jazz and country terrain. But the highlight of the evening detached from all of that. During an instrumental medley of fiddle tunes led by a ghostly Wayfaring Stranger, Rodriguez let loose on fiddle with a gorgeous, rustic tone and a stride both unhurried and confident. Her playing sounded beautifully antique yet completely fresh and vital. That’s all you could ever want for Valentine’s Day – be it at Natasha’s or Knucklehead’s.

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