We Still Love Our Country
Expectations for this collaboration between Carrie Rodriguez and Ben Kyle might not be too high, given that it's just eight songs long, only two of which are originals. But any such misgivings will vanish on first listen, as this album is a delight from first note to last.
Rodriguez has described We Still Love Our Country as a return to her roots, and what she has achieved in partnership with Belfast-born Kyle is to emulate some of the great country male/female partnerships. The playing throughout is simple and to the point and there's an adept choice of songs, but above all else the voices of Rodriguez and Kyle sound like they were made to sing together.
In terms of song selection, there's just one Rodriguez/Kyle song, and one written by Kyle alone. Happily, these are by no means outclassed, and meld seamlessly in with songs by writers of the calibre of Townes Van Zandt, John Prine and Chip Taylor.
John Prine's original version of “Unwed Fathers” had him swapping verses with his then wife Rachel Peer Prine, who grabbed the opportunity to demonstrate a lovely, breathy singing style. Perhaps wary of following the original too closely, Rodriguez and Kyle don't choose to do the same, instead Kyle sings the whole song, with Rodriguez restricted to harmonies, although she does contribute some delicate fiddle.
However, when it comes to covering Boudleaux Bryant's “Love Hurts”, Rodriguez and Kyle supply virtually a carbon copy of the classic Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris version. Kyle has described it as a homage, saying that Gram and Emmylou were a major inspiration for this project. For whatever reason, it works, and is a delicious way to round off the album.
If there's any criticism to be made, it might be that Kyle sings lead on the majority of the songs, and it would perhaps have been nice to hear more of Rodriguez. But it's a minor quibble, and shouldn't detract from your enjoyment of this unassuming gem.