Before the show began, guitarist Luke Jacobs threw some old-time tunes on the record player that was set up at stage right, setting the mood as he moved slowly and deliberately around the stage making sure that the instruments were tuned up and ready to go.
Carrie Rodriguez took the stage without much fanfare, smiling from ear to ear as she grabbed her fiddle and said hello to the crowd. Without wasting any time, Luke grabbed his guitar and started strumming the chords to the first tune of the evening.
The pair ran through a bit of Carrie's recorded output, from a very powerful "Seven Angels on a Bicycle" and "She Ain't Me," to a handful of tracks from her latest album "Give Me All You Got." There were a pair of covers in the mix as well, a fantastic duet of Merle Haggard's "Today I Started Loving You Again" and an encore of "La Puñalada Trapera," a staple of her mariachi singing great-aunt, Ava Garza.
This was one of the best sounding shows I've seen at the Old Rock House. Josh was running the board and did a fantastic job of capturing the power of Carrie's voice and the subtle nuances of her fiddle playing. Luke's acoustic guitar was about as perfectly balanced tonally as you can get and his electric had an overdriven fuzz with tone as thick as a baby's arm.
Carrie was in excellent form, her fiddle expressing mournful cries and exuberant joy often in the same song. She also played a little guitar and plucked out a few songs on her Epiphone Mandobird, which I covet almost as much as Quintron's Rhodes/Hammond combo. Vocally she has a strong country flavor, along the lines of Zoe Muth or Carrie Underwood. The passion that she puts into her lyrics translates into her singing, giving her an edge above most female country vocalists that you hear on most of the corporate stations.
Carrie and Luke have been playing together for a long time, something that was obvious in their performance. They weave their solo parts in and out of the framework of the songs with precision, each one complimenting the other's parts without competing or fighting for dominance. They are comfortable with the songs but don't come off as stale or over-rehearsed.
The between song banter was also enjoyable, none of it forced and all of it given with an ear-to-ear grin. It is obvious that Carrie loves what she does and appreciates her fans, something that translates into everything about her performances. Luke's story of how the tour poster was created was both comical and a reminder of why you should never make deals after a night of drinking.
Oddly enough, the last time Carrie Rodriguez came through St. Louis was two years ago almost to the day. She was on the Acoustic Café tour sharing the stage with Erin McKeown, Tania Elizabeth and Mary Gauthier. I reviewed that show as well, my biggest complaint of that night being that the individual sets were too short.
Now that I have seen Carrie play a full set by herself, I can say that my instincts were right. Although it took two years for her to return, the same fire and passion still burns in her voice and fiddle.