Austin violinist-turned-fiddler-turned-singer Carrie Rodriguez capped her multiyear tutelage with songwriter Chip Taylor in her 2006 debut, Seven Angels on a Bicycle . While the album featured several Taylor compositions, it was a folksy and soulful stunner that was clearly a step up for the theretofore reserved Rodriguez. Now She Ain’t Me (Manhattan/Back Porch) makes an about-face, abandoning rootsy twang for full-blown Dixie Chicks–like pop bombast. The comparison is apt: Not only does Rodriguez co-write with Chicks collaborators Gary Louris and Dan Wilson, but she seems equally anxious to break out of an alt-country ghetto. It’s a brave move; Rodriguez has a charming voice, but unlike Natalie Maines, she can’t always carry the weight of a big production. As song after song builds its way to a soaring chorus, the effect can be numbing. Yet for the first time, Rodriguez has her name on all but one of the eleven tunes, and her material is strong—lyrically intimate and full of loss. She proves she knows her way to a song’s emotional core, even when she has to strip away a bit more gloss to get there.