The Greencards,
(Dualtone, 2007)

From time to time, I see the Greencards called a "bluegrass" band. The b-word is so often burbled by people who don't know what they're talking about that I suppose this shouldn't rise even to the level of passing irritation. Still, I'll say it anyway: the Greencards are not a bluegrass band, damn it.

Not that bluegrass isn't one of a range of influences from which this two-thirds-acoustic, string trio draws. Now on their third album, the Greencards, who will make you think of a laid-back version of the Duhks (which is to say minus the rock and Third World rhythms), are sufficiently eclectic as to be effectively genreless. To my ears "genreless" is usually a polite way of saying "directionless." This group, however, has a palpable confidence -- or perhaps sheer youthful brashness -- which affords its music a measure of strength and character even when, on more than a couple of occasions, the sound verges on lounge lizard, or maybe Norah Jones.

The band did not come by its name casually. Though the Greencards work out of Austin, none of the three is American. Fiddler/cellist Eamon McLoughlin is English, and multi-stringed-instrumentalist Warner and electric-bass player Carol Young are Australian. Young, who has an affecting, mood-intense voice, performs most of the lead vocals; I might note, too, that from the limited evidence here, McLoughlin is another impressive singer. They're joined on this recording, cut in a Nashville studio, by an assortment of Music City's most creatively appealing, among them vocalist Andrea Zonn and acoustic-guitar wizard Bryan Sutton.

Inevitably, I am attracted to the more rooted tunes (a distinct minority), such as "When I Was in Love with You" (an adaptation of an A.E. Housman poem with echoes of British folk song via Fairport Convention) and Warner, Young and Ronnie Bowman's -- yes -- bluegrass-like "Who Knows?" (with its echoes of Peter Rowan's "Walls of Time"). On the other hand, the one pure bluegrass cut, Warner and Jerry Salley's "Lonesome Side of Town," is not only a genre exercise but something of a generic one.

Depending on your taste, you're almost certain to find something here that pleases you. (Besides the above-stated, for me it's the closing piece, Warner's sprightly, Irish-flavored instrumental "Mucky the Duck.") But if taste and talent are in abundance all over Viridian, one wishes that such were employed to more consistently wakeful effect. Some of this feels like the musical equivalent of sleepwalking. Maybe the answer is simple: more consistently interesting material next time.

by Jerome Clark
24 March 2007

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