Some famous musical duos originate in the womb, like The Louvin or Everly brothers. Others are created by love, like Ian and Silvia, Richard and Mimi Farina, and Buddy and Julie Miller. Finally there are musical combinations that seem to occur by lucky happenstance. Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez were born at least a generation apart, but together they create as intimate a musical combination as any I’ve heard.
The Trouble With Humans comes a little over a year after their first release, Let’s Leave This Town. Like its predecessor, from the very first song The Trouble With Humans seduces with direct lyrics and infectious melodies. Populated only with original songs, most written by Chip Taylor, who also wrote “Wild Thing” and “Angel of the Morning,” three songs are collaborations between Taylor and Rodriguez.
My favorite tune is the opener, “Don’t Speak in English,” with its quirky lyrics, beautiful melody, and captivating vocal harmonies. “Memphis, Texas,” one of the co-written tunes, is a tome to the panhandle Texas town of Carrie’s grandmother. Their vocal harmonies during the chorus fit like a 20-year-old Stetson.
Taylor and Rodriguez roped together a first class posse of sidemen for The Trouble With Humans. Longtime sidekick John Platania on resonator guitar joins Dave Mattacks on drums, Redd Volkaert on guitar, Earl Poole Ball on piano, and Lloyd Maines on steel guitar. These seasoned old pros know how to make a song sound loose while still keeping it in their pocket. Recorded in Boston by the same engineer who recorded their first album, Huck Bennert, The Trouble With Humans shares a similar warmly intimate sonic signature and naturally relaxed ambience. The sound, just like the backup playing and musical arrangements, works to deliver the songs as effectively and directly as possible.
Some music is addictive in a bad way, the tunes that you desperately try to evict from your head once they take up residence. The cure? Next time a car ad or peanut butter commercial tries to take over your brain just put on The Trouble With Humans and these musical demons will vanish like cockroaches exposed to a bright kitchen light.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Dec. ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.