Carrie Rodriguez gives it all she's got

Singer-songwriter-musician gets eclectic on new CD

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If you go:

What: Carrie Rodriguez, in concert.

When: 8 p.m. Feb. 24 for 21 and older.

Where: Mississippi Studios, 3939 N. Mississippi, Portland.

Cost: $18 to $20.

Information: 503-288-3895 or Mississippi Studios.

It would seem only natural that Carrie Rodriguez would have made the move into songwriting and being a solo artist in her own right after playing fiddle as a sideman for other artists.

After all, songwriting is in her blood — quite literally. She is the daughter of David Rodriguez, an acclaimed singer-songwriter who has released several albums.

But instead of making songwriting something Rodriguez wanted to pursue from a young age, she said the connection to her father actually made her hesitate to explore her songwriting talents.

"If you're the kid of someone who's known for what they do and they're really good at it, which my dad is — he's a very renown songwriter — you don't want to go there," Rodriguez said in a mid-January phone interview. "It's a little intimidating."

But her plans to be a sideman changed in 2001 when Rodriguez played the South By Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas, as a member of a band called Hayseed.

Chip Taylor (who wrote "Wild Thing" and "Angel of the Morning") saw her and offered to take Rodriguez on the road and under his wing.

This partnership led to three albums as a duo — "Let's Leave This Town" (2002), "The Trouble With Humans" (2003) and "Red Dog Tracks" (2004).

By that time, Taylor had already convinced Rodriguez to start singing, a move that revealed that she was a more than capable vocalist.

Taylor also encouraged Rodriguez to start writing songs. She had a few co-writes on the latter two albums with Taylor, and then stepped out as a solo act with her 2006 album, "Seven Angels on a Bicycle."

Still, Taylor was a major presence on "Seven Angels on a Bicycle," writing seven songs, co-writing four others with Rodriguez. The CD gained enough notice that Rodriguez landed a deal with major label EMI Records.

And on her next CD, 2008's "She Ain't Me," Taylor was not directly involved in songwriting or production, as EMI instead had Rodriguez write with such A-list songwriters as Gary Louris (of the Jayhawks), Dan Wilson and Mary Gauthier. She ended up co-writing all but one of the songs on "She Ain't Me," marking her full-on arrival as a solo artist.

But almost as quickly has Rodriguez had stepped up to the big leagues with her EMI deal, Rodriguez was dropped from the roster.

She realized it was a good time to step back, try to process all that had happened over the preceding seven years.

"So much of my early musical career was a whirlwind. It happened so quick," Rodriguez said. "It left me kind of just wanting to catch my breath and wondering, well, I've enjoyed all of this, but what is truly my voice, when it's not being influenced by these amazing songwriters and record label executives who are hoping for me to have a hit. I needed some time to figure out what it all meant."

She bought herself some time by doing a covers record, "Love And Circumstance," which helped her reconnect with her musical roots and figure out her next step as a songwriter and solo artist.

With "Give Me All You Got," Rodriguez returns sounding more confident, and interestingly enough, more willing to stretch beyond her roots in folk and country. There are still elements of the acoustic-leaning folk of her earlier work, but Rodriguez works with a larger instrumental and stylistic palette here. "Devil In Mind," one of a pair of songs Rodriguez co-wrote with Taylor, is a gritty, spirited tune with a bluesy chorus and bits of rock and folk elsewhere. "I Cry For Love" is an edgy vocal tour de force that combines blues, rock and country. The gently swinging "Tragic" has a bit of torch song jazz in its smoky late-night sound.

"I think I have a lot of different genres that come out of me," Rodriguez said. "And I love having the freedom to let them come out. I no longer feel afraid to let something sound country if that's the way it comes out. But I also, at the same time, think the new album really runs the gamut of styles. Some of those songs came out sounding like really odd little indie pop ditties or something. That's just how they came out."

On her first tour in support of "Give Me All You Got," Rodriguez is having to give songs from the new album and her back catalog a face-lift. That's because she's touring only with multi-instrumentalist Luke Jacobs (a featured player on "Give Me All You Got"), so much of the instrumentation used on her albums is missing for this tour.

That's no problem for Rodriguez, who says the variety of instruments she and Jacobs play keeps things fresh and the two relish the opportunity to reinvent the songs on stage.

"It's really fun for me to find new, fresh arrangements, of both the new and the older stuff," she said. "When you have (just) two people, the music is very elastic. We can really take liberties that you can't take when you have drums. So we can stretch solos out in different ways, change tempos. Usually it sounds good."