Ninth Street Opus, USA
by Blanca Méndez
For someone whose preferred approach to country music is more aggressive, more intoxicated, more “don’t talk to me like that I will cut you,” more...Miranda Lambert, it might take some patience to get into Carrie Rodriguez, who is more restrained, even leisurely. She may not be gunpowder and lead, but she ain’t no snoozefest either. Classically trained since childhood, Rodriguez is not only accomplished technically, but versatile enough to break away from her years of training to take up country music and excel at it. 2008’s She Ain’t Me is potent in its display of Rodriguez’s fiddle skills and might be a better starting point for those new to Rodriguez’s work, but Give Me All You Got still showcases her talents, just in a more subtle way.
The album starts off lively enough with the deft diction and slick fiddle of “Devil in Mind” and the snaps and syncopation of the flirtatious “Lake Harriet.” Then there’s the somewhat less dynamic “Whiskey Runs Thicker Than Blood,” a should I, shouldn’t I tune of weighing a lover’s pros and cons, knowing the cons far outway the pros. It’s one of those “I wish I knew how to quit you” situations. But then things quickly mellow down, which is often rewarding, but sometimes loses the listener. While the sauntering pace and clunky lyrics of songs like “Sad Joy” and “I Cry For Love” causes them to fall a bit flat, Rodriguez plays a mean fiddle and, with just a few sharp licks, she’s able to redeem them.
Even so, some of the most gorgeous moments on the album are the ones you have to slow down and listen for the most. Rodriguez is unwavering in "Cut Me Now" because she knows what's coming and she knows what she got herself into ("I have jumped into this fire / I have done it on my own / And I will burn the way I burn"), and in "I Don't Mind Waiting" she's equally resolute, even though she's "been waiting since time began." “Get Back In Love” is oh so quiet, almost bare instrumentally and level vocally and melodically, but it’s incredibly powerful. When she sings, “it only takes a slow jukebox dance” you can picture the dim bar (maybe a rehabbed barn), twinkle lights hanging from the rafters, vintage jukebox in the corner playing something by Lucinda Williams or Emmylou Harris as a couple sways to the music. What’s especially striking about this song is the way Rodriguez chooses to word it. She doesn’t say “fall back in love” it’s “get back in love.” There’s agency in the love she sings about; it isn’t something that just happens to you, it’s something that you have to open yourself up to.
Give Me All You Got is a slow burner for sure, but that’s not a bad thing. Patience is a virtue, right? And spending time with a record to really let it seep in, to really steep in it, is something of a luxury. Even if you think you can’t afford it, you should splurge on this one because for your patience you’re rewarded with an album that, like the liquor that inspired one of its tracks, tingles on the way down and warms you from the inside.