But Rodriguez’s palette isn’t all pleasant dreams and fluffy clouds. It’s clear she has mined nearly every substratum of American roots music, every ethno-musicological cross-pollination of her native Texas. Jacobs quickly traded an acoustic guitar for a dirt-and-reverb-laden electric. “ ’50s French Movie” was a steamy three-chord stomp, with Rodriguez taunting an “aimless” someone to get to the point: “When do we get to kiss? / When do I take my clothes off? / What kind of part is this?”
Rodriguez is fresh off a live collaboration with guitarists Bill Frisell and Buddy Miller at New York’s Lincoln Center, where the trio revived the Ur-country-and-western sounds recorded in Bristol, Tenn., in 1927. She shared a couple of selections from that set on Saturday — traditional instrumental fiddle tunes that, in a different setting, would have been the soundtrack to a flatfoot dance.
Trained at such elite institutions as the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Berklee College of Music, Rodriguez, with her by turns fluttery and dissonant trills, is a formidable soloist, seemingly equally at ease with classical European melodies and rural American ones.
The spartan musical approach of the Rodriguez-Jacobs duo was, at times, a hurdle impossible to overcome. “Sad Joy,” for example, was written in a modern pop idiom — but you couldn’t tell that from the spare instrumentation. Perhaps realizing these limits, Rodriguez and Jacobs retooled the tune as an Everly Brothers-inspired vehicle for tight harmony vocals.
More often, though, the pair made a virtue of necessity. On “Get Back in Love” and “Seven Angels on a Bicycle,” for example, Rodriguez played a four-string tenor guitar and Jacobs sat down with a lap steel guitar running through a delay processor. The effect was lushly cinematic.
Jacobs, it should be noted, proved a compelling presence in his own right. He sang a few numbers from his catalogue, each of them (“Providence and Mystery,” “Oh God”) marked in some way by the experience of growing up in a conservative Protestant household. Amusingly, he explained that “Margarete” was a boiled-down, country-western take on Goethe’s deal-with-the-devil tale “Faust.”
Rodriguez closed out with a particularly heartfelt and leaned-into Spanish-language rendition of the waltz-timed “La Punalada Trapera” — that is, “the treacherous back-stab.” The sentiment, she joked, was a “warm” parting thought for a town enduring a January cold snap.
Galupo is a freelance writer.