Despite having a respectable music past, Carrie Rodriguez is an artist without moorings. On All the Rain, recorded in 2003 with mentor Chip Taylor, Rodriguez sang, self-mockingly, "Didn't they tell you/There's something wrong with her accent?" On her fourth solo album, the accent - and perhaps the self-awareness that line betrayed - is all but gone, locked away in the vaults, presumably, until Rodriguez is ready to release a retrospective on her career. If she hasn't planned things out quite that carefully, it sure feels like it.
Rodriguez has long been the beneficiary of the input of skillful, if lesser-known, elder statesmen - first the witty Taylor, a songwriting legend, and here the studio aces Bill Frisell, Greg Leisz and Buddy Miller. She's also got a degree from Berklee College of Music and, more importantly, big talent. If this release is any indication, what's missing is a clear sense of who she is.
The sad indication is that she's nothing more than another of the Norah Jones clones. Best evidence: the inclusion of a Hank Williams cover. But where Jones improbably outdid Hank on Cold Cold Heart in her landmark debut album, Rodriguez adds even less to I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry than one might have expected. Under the tutelage of Taylor, who persuaded Rodriguez to sing after hearing her play the fiddle - go figure - she bristled with energy. On "Love and Circumstance," she's virtually somnambulant. Call it Jones Lite.
The problem starts with the song selection - a passel of middling numbers about love (Steal Your Love, I Made a Lover's Prayer) and others recorded 20 times too often (I'm So Lonesome, Today I Started Loving You Again). Even one in Spanish, La Punalada Trapera, falls flat.