First Night Knoxville 2012, Part 3: Carrie Rodriguez (plus a little Cruz Contreras)

Carrie Rodriguez at the Square Room, Knoxville

After I left Jodie Manross at the Miller’s Atrium, I rushed over to the East Tennessee History Center auditorium for the performance of Carrie Rodriguez. The performances in this venue were billed as “international,” which meant that they represented different cultures. I’m glad they included it because one thing that I continue to lament is the lack of an international flair to our downtown. My guess would be that at least 97% of the people I saw that night were Caucasian and I only heard one other language one time and that was Spanish. But I digress.

Carrie Rodriguez at First Night Knoxville 2012
Cruz Contreras, Carrie Rodriguez and Luke Jacobs, First Night Knoxville 2012

Also billed as “international” were the African Drum Circle, Belly Dance and Four Leaf Peat. I couldn’t see my way clear to catch those guys, but I did make it to Carrie’s performance. She was joined in this appearance by band-mate Luke Jacobs and our own Cruise Contreras, currently of the Black Lilies. The first thing that I noticed was that Cruz has grown a bit of a beard and really resembles Bob Dylan of the “New Morning” era. Maybe it’s just me, but it hit me in the face when I walked through the door.

Carrie Rodriguez and Luke Jacobs, Square Room, Knoxville
Carrie Rodriguez, Square Room, First Night Knoxville 2012

This was one of the larger crowds I saw all night with probably three or four hundred people seated and standing in the theater. The performers were seated, unfortunately at floor level, as best I could tell, which made  visibility poor from anywhere but the front. Cruz played mandolin, Carrie played fiddle and Luke played guitar. Carrie made jokes about the limited rehearsal time and it was apparent they were communicating facially regarding solos and the endings of the songs, but I doubt an audio recording of the night would have led anyone to guess they hadn’t played together many times.

Carrie Rodriguez, First Night Knoxville 2012

The sound quality in the room was excellent and the sound of the trio was so good that Carrie suggested Cruz join them later for their headlining performance at the Square Room. She mentioned a conflict for him and I assume that would have been the V-Roy’s performance. Maybe someone reading this could let us know if he appeared at that show. I can verify he didn’t show for the later performance.

Carrie Rodriguez and Luke Jacobs, Square Room, Knoxville
Carrie Rodriguez and Luke Jacobs, First Night Knoxville 2012

After making a number of other stops (which I’ll discuss in later blogs), I finished my night at her Square Room show. The room was packed with many people standing. It was the largest crowd I saw all night. She thanked the crowd for being her most respectful New Year’s crowds and not quite what she expected. I hope that was a compliment. The Square Room is set up for listening with it’s excellent stage and sound system and, while I love a rowdy show as much as anybody, I do like shows where people sit and intensely listen.

Carrie Rodriguez, Square Room, First Night Knoxville 2012
Carrie Rodriguez and Luke Jacobs, Square Room, Knoxville, 2012

While the earlier show highlighted Latina roots, even stepping off into Mariachi territory, this set focused more on her Americana sound with her exuberant vocals and white-hot fiddle playing. When she bends to the floor playing her heart out, it’s hard to tell which will scream for mercy first, her contorted body or her assaulted fiddle. Her work with excellent guitarist Luke Jacobs feels like the comfortable symbiotic groove it has, no doubt, become after many nights playing together.

Carrie Rodriguez, Square Room, Knoxville 12/31/11

 In the Americana universe she is a bright and rising star. In the world of American music she a gorgeous piece of the tapestry of who we are. I’d encourage you to give her beautiful music a listen. You’ll be glad you did. Just to make it easy, I’ve included a sample below.