'Tuned In' review: Carrie Rodriguez is in a giving mood, but with some restraint

Carrie Rodriguez's 'Give Me All You Got'

Carrie Rodriguez's "Give Me All You Got"

“Give Me All You Got,” Carrie Rodriguez (Ninth Street Opus)

“Am I tough? Tough enough,” sings Carrie Rodriguez on “I Cry for Love,” a simmering electric track on her new “Give Me All You Got,” due for release Jan. 22.

That could well be Rodriguez’s motto. The singing/songwriting fiddler - originally from Austin, Texas, and now based in Brooklyn - has a little bit of an edge in most all she does. That suits her well for the darker and angrier tracks on “Give Me All You Got,” though it gets in her way when she’s going for vulnerability.

Rodriguez, making a name for herself since Chip Taylor discovered her more than a decade ago, has a solid Americana foundation for support. In fact, the music is so tight that the Lee Townsend-produced “Give Me All You Got” sounds more like a band album than a soloist album, veering from alt-folk to alt-country – thanks to lap and pedal steel, mandolin, upright bass and more from multi-instrumentalists including Luke Jacobs and Hans Holzen, plus Rodriguez herself.

Her vocals are often simply another instrument, partly because of the power of the music, partly because of her no-frills singing. Yet there’s strength in her steady, gimmick-less delivery. She’s “tough enough” for the rootsy swagger of “Devil in Mind,” adequately weary for “Sad Joy.”

Still, there’s something a bit too demanding in her tone on the wistful “Lake Harriet,” and when “Give Me All You Got” sinks into a languid mid-album stretch, Rodriguez only helps to let the air out of momentum – not tender enough to pull up the drowsy ballad “Get Back in Love,” only lukewarm in the loungey saunter of “Tragic,” and flat-footed in the uncharacteristically uninviting arrangement of “Cut Me Now.”

Fortunately the release bounces back at the end, first with Rodriguez offering engaging sweetness (and indecision) in “Whiskey Runs Thicker Than Blood” and then quirkiness for the child-like stop-and-go of “Brooklyn.”

“Give Me All You Got” finishes with its strongest track, “I Don’t Mind Waiting,” as the smooth-voiced Jacobs steps up to join Rodriguez in a touching duet as they sing, “I’ve only been waiting since time began.”

Although Rodriguez may not be giving us all she’s got with this one, she’s not being selfish, either.

Rating (five possible): 3-1/2

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