Review: The Greencards – The Brick Album (Darling Street, 2011)
The Greencards – The Brick Album (Darling Street, 2011)
If you imagine an intersection where the traditions of country and bluegrass meet the inventions of newgrass and the changes that swept through British contemporary folk, you’ll have a sense of the music spun by the Greencards. Their songs feature the tight harmonies of country and bluegrass, the sophistication of jazz, and the pluck of folk. As on 2009’s Fascination, the band traverses numerous styles from song to song, but unlike the contrasting colors of their previous outing, here they explore varying shades of their progressive string-band sound. The opening “Make it Out West,” though sung about modern contemporary emigration to the coast, still manages to conjure pickaxes and transcontinental rails with its rhythm. Similar changes are also heard in the jig “Adelaide,” while the album’s second instrumental, “Tale of Kangario,” hints at South American styles.
Vocalist Carol Young moves fluidly from country to jazz to pop, occasionally transitioning within a single song. The bass and plucked mandolin of “Mrs. Madness” provides a ‘30s supper club setting for the verses, slides into contemporary harmonies on the chorus and adds modernly picked fills. The longing of “Faded” and harmony blend of “Naked on the River” lean more toward pop harmony groups like the Rescues than to traditional bluegrass or country, but the mandolin (courtesy of guest Sam Bush), fiddle (from recent addition Tyler Andal) and guitar (from the band’s other recent addition, Carl Miner) keep the song anchored to the group’s roots. Vince Gill adds a duet vocal on “Heart Fixer,” and several dozen fans star as financial supporters, with their names emblazoned on the covers.
You can imagine several of these songs turning up on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or another lovingly curated television show’s soundtrack. The Greencards have combined their diverse musical interests in a showcase that highlights the ingredients without sounding forced. They sound modern, but still rooted, a group whose acoustic framework is still recognizable to bluegrass, country and string band fans, but one that could also appeal to contemporary pop listeners.