She went from having never sung a note in her life to releasing three albums - and being compared to June Carter Cash. Meet Carrie Rodriguez.By Kevin Raub
It could have been so easy for sultry Mexican-American songstress Carrie Rodriguez to play up the June Carter Cash comparisons on her upcoming solo debut, Seven Angels on a Bicycle (Back Porch Records), due in August. With the success surrounding Walk the Line, the biopic about the rise and fall of Johnny Cash, audiences would have been already tuned into that somewhat lost 1950s country, 4-H-fair twang - the dominating sound on Rodriguez's first three duet albums with country-folk legend Chip Taylor. Instead, on Seven Angels on a Bicycle, the 27-year-old Berklee College of Music grad has gone with less bluegrass and more sass.
Despite having grown up in a family steeped in music - she's the daughter of well-known Austin songwriter David Rodriguez and the great-niece of even more famous Mexican bolero balladeer Eva Garza - Rodriguez had never thought about singing; she played violin instead, from the age of five. In fact, she had never even sung a note outside of the shower when Taylor, with whom she was touring as a fiddler, forced her to the stage in Sweden in 2001.
"I honestly never thought there was any reason I should sing in public," says the Texas-born New York transplant. "My voice always sounded kind of harsh to me ... still does. Every time a song was coming up in the show that I had to sing on, I would get terribly nervous - to the extent that my knees were literally shaking!"
Still, Rodriguez soldiered on, and the fruits of her partnership with Taylor produced three duet albums, including 2005's critical favorite, Red Dog Tracks. "Singing in a recording studio or onstage when you don't consider yourself to be a singer is a little nerve-racking," she says. "When we made the first record, Let's Leave This Town, I remember thinking, 'People are going to hear this or, God forbid, buy this and know that I'm not a singer.'?"
On Angels, Rodriguez puts that anxiety to rest. She embraces the center of attention, producing the album with Taylor and writing half the tracks with him as well. While she hasn't abandoned country-folk altogether - there's plenty of steel guitar and banjo here - standout crossover tracks like the sexy "Got Your Name on It" are sure to inspire more panting than pickin'.