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'It's hard to look back'

WANT TO GO?

"Mountain Stage"

With Bruce Cockburn, Iris Dement, Brooke Waggoner, Trixie Whitley and Carrie Rodriguez

WHERE: Culture Center Theater

WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday

TICKETS: Advance tickets $15, at the door $25

INFO: 800-549-TIXX or www.mountainstage.org

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Carrie Rodriguez said the devastation she's seen on television for parts of New York are difficult for her to look at. The Austin-based singer/songwriter called New York home for almost 10 years and said it's hard to look back.

"I moved there right after I finished school in Boston at Berklee," said Rodriguez, who performs on "Mountain Stage" Sunday. "I spent the last five years of that in Green Point, Brooklyn, which was affected by the storm. It was really heartbreaking and shocking watch those images of places I knew and streets where I walked being inundated by water."

She said it was hard to look at from a distance and strange to have a storm almost 2000 miles away threaten to upend your plans.

"Right after the storm, I was getting ready to do a gig with Chip Taylor in Sweden," she said. "Chip lives in Midtown, and he was supposed to fly out on the Wednesday following the storm. I was supposed to fly through Newark."

Hurricane Sandy grounded flights in the northeast.

"Chip made it out of New York," Ridriguez said. "It was kind of a miracle. There were eight flights out that left Newark that day, and he was on one of them. He's a lucky guy."

Rodriguez luck wasn't quite as good, but after about eight different flights, she finally made it to Sweden for the Mean Bastard Festival, which Taylor, Rodrgiuez said, sort of curates.

"In that part of Sweden," she explained, "the sun doesn't come up for two months, and so this festival is kind of a celebration of the coming of the dark."

The festival was really too fun a time for Rodriguez to miss, and it was an opportunity for her to perform again with her friend and mentor, Taylor.

Taylor, an occasional "Mountain Stage" guest himself, is best known for writing songs like "Wild Thing" (a 1965 hit for The Trogs) and "Angel of the Morning" (a hit for Merilee Rush and Juice Newton). He helped Rodriguez when she got started in music and encouraged her to go solo.

Rodriguez met Taylor while playing fiddle for Lucinda Williams's ex-boyfriend and bass player, Richard Price, in a band called Hayseed. Price took her to see Taylor.

"I didn't have a clue who Chip was," she laughed.

Price explained to her that Taylor wrote "Wild Thing." "But I was amazed at some of the other things he'd written, like 'Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)' that Janis Joplin covered. I was a huge Janis fan."

Price asked Taylor to come see Hayseed play, and after the show, Taylor started hiring Rodriguez to play fiddle for him when he was in Texas. Texas led to touring and an off-hand question.

Taylor asked, "Can you sing harmony?"

Rodriguez lied and told him yes.

"Honestly," she said, "I'd never done any singing before except in the car or in the shower. I took one class at Berklee called 'Singing for Non-Vocalists' because I thought it was an easy A."

Rodriguez said she got a C on her midterm.

"I was terrible."

But Taylor's songs worked for her. They seemed natural, and soon singing harmony became a duet, then two duets and finally a whole album of duets.

Rodriguez toured with Taylor for five years, but early on, she said he told her to start thinking about making a solo record. Over time, she did, and eventually went out on her own. Her sixth record, "Give Me All You Got," is due out early next year.

Still, she said she loved getting together with Taylor to play again.

"My music is a very different style than Chip's," she said. "But it was really nice to sing those old duets again and have something new to bring to them."

Rodriguez can hardly wait to get out on the road for the record next year with guitarist Luke Jacobs, who also co-wrote some of the songs.

"The duo we've got going is just so much fun."

Rodriguez said she's looking forward to the future, but looking back isn't all bad.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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