Carrie Rodriguez Live @ The Old Queen’s Head

5 stars (out of 5)

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Carrie Rodrguez (Photo by Allan McKay)

Carrie Rodrguez (Photo by Allan McKay)

I’ve got to say this; my end of year piece this year will be jam-packed with superlatives.  I’ll have to give the thesaurus a hammering to avoid repetition because I’ve seen so many great gigs and heard so many great new albums this year.  Carrie Rodriguez is easily in the top five live artists I’ve seen this year and her show at The Old Queens Head in Islington was the kind of warm, confident and intimate performance that only a true star can give.

The venue is perfect for this show; an upstairs room at a pub with a good sound system and just enough room for the appreciative and knowledgeable audience.  From the start of the set, Carrie (singing, playing fiddle and the unusual tenor guitar) and her touring compadre Luke Jacobs (playing acoustic, electric and lap steel guitar and supplying beautiful vocal harmonies) gradually extend their intimate working relationship to include everyone in the audience.  I was surprised by the number of stomp boxes on the stage but the two players used them with the same deft touch that they applied to their playing and vocals.

How do you describe Carrie’s genre?  Country, folk, Americana, bluegrass, all of the above?  I think it has to be the latter; it’s also obvious that Carrie is a very gifted writer and the show tonight is full of examples of that.  She’s touring to promote her new album “Give Me All You Got” and the two sets lean fairly heavily on the new material interspersed with some old classics.  The opener “Devil in Mind” showcases Carrie’s powerful voice alongside her wonderful fiddle playing.  I’ve seen many country and folk fiddle players stamp one foot in time to the music, but never in two-inch platforms with a six-inch spike heel.  The two sets are well-paced and the new songs are placed alongside old favourites although it doesn’t seem to matter because the audience seem to know all the songs anyway, old and new.  There’s even a Luke Jacobs song on the Faust theme, “Oh Margherite” which follows the beautiful and poignant “Seven Angels on a Bicycle”.

It’s difficult to pigeonhole a performer like Carrie Rodriguez (and I’m not saying that’s a bad thing), because she does so many things so well, moving effortlessly from the pure country of “I Don’t want to Play House Anymore” to the riff-driven mystery and menace of “’50’s French Movie” and from the upbeat, uptempo “Lake Harriet” to the delicate beauty of “Get Back in Love” with its lovely subtle touches of lap steel.  It’s easy to see why Carrie has a reputation as great fiddle player; she incorporates elements of classical, country, folk and even rock into her playing and has the knack of making the incredibly difficult look really simple.  She also creates a very intimate atmosphere for the show, inviting the audience to be a part of the experience and breaking down the traditional barriers.  There’s also genuine emotion when she talks about her good friend who was the subject of “Seven Angels…” and about her mother before playing “La Puñalada Trapera”.  And all of this makes for a very warm and intimate live experience.

It may be a while before she’s back in the UK again, but you could always listen to the new album (or her previous albums); you won’t be disappointed.