Chip Taylor & Carrie Rodriguez: Live from the Ruhr Triennale

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ImageAnyone who has followed Chip Taylor’s remarkable career and equally remarkable pairing with the previously unknown Carrie Rodriguez must have been delighted by news of this live album’s arrival. As their three studio CDs have demonstrated, his earthy vocals and from-the-heart compositions plus her folksy Texas twang and fiery violin can produce magic. Because they project strong, appealing personalities and interact so well, you’d expect a concert album to be a particular treat.

You’ll indeed find treats on this product of a 2005 German gig, but not consistently. It’s hard to go seriously wrong with material as good as Johnny Cash’s “Big River” and Merle Haggard’s “Today I Started Loving You Again,” but the covers here of such classics, while respectable, add little to the originals and occasionally underscore Taylor’s vocal limitations. Another minor disappointment is that the couple barely speak between songs; a bit more stage patter might have shown off a side of them that studio discs don’t convey.

But good news outweighs the bad. Stellar Taylor compositions predominate, and when the couple trade verses or harmonize on originals like “Let’s Leave This Town,” their charm proves irresistible. Plus, the album ends on a high note, with readings of Taylor’s best-known songs: “Angel of the Morning,” the 1968 Merrilee Rush smash; and “Wild Thing,” the 1966 Troggs chart-topper that Jimi Hendrix memorably redefined. The versions here won’t usurp those hits, but Taylor and Rodriguez’s “Angel of the Morning” sounds intimate enough to make you feel like an eavesdropper; and with the help of Buddy Miller’s guitar, they turn “Wild Thing” into an raunchy, playful rave-up that’ll have you wishing you were in the audience.

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