Tres Chicas,
Bloom, Red & the Ordinary Girl
(Yep Roc, 2006)

Tres Chicas is based around the female trio of Lynn Blakey, Caitlin Carey (a founder of alt-country band Whiskeytown) and Tonya Lamm. Bloom, Red & the Ordinary Girl is their second album, following their 2004 debut, Sweetwater.

The album starts out in a promising fashion with "Drop Me Down," a song that could almost have come from the pen of Gram Parsons, with its easy country-rock style and superb Emmylou-like harmonies. This is followed by the bluesy "Stone Love Song," which for me is where Bloom, Red & the Ordinary Girl goes quickly awry. The song itself is fine, and would have been perfectly suited to the sort of country-tinged arrangement that Patsy Cline mastered -- instead it gets a very weak anodyne arrangement, and ends up being altogether unremarkable. Even the vocals on this track jar slightly and, at least to my ears, fail to hit the right notes.

Things get back on track for "All the Shade Trees in Bloom," with a smoky, sultry lead vocal and the return of the delightful harmonies that promised so much on the opening track. The instrumental arrangements are spot on, with a throbbing bass and bluesy piano providing the perfect setting for this heartfelt plea for love and tenderness. Sweeping country-rock arrangements are successfully revisited on "Sway" and "The Man of the People," the latter of which contains some luscious steel guitar.

The disappointment returns on the awkwardly paced "Only Broken," which has a cluttered feel and an uncertain style. The unimpressive "Still I Run" has off-key vocals, and lyrics that leave me feeling nothing whatsoever: "Come and find me at the top of the Ferris wheel" -- I'd probably leave her there! Similarly, "400 Flamingos" begins with the mysterious line, "Your heart is 400 flamingos." Fine! Whatever!

With a tighter focus, this could have been an enjoyable collection. The soft country-rock style and well-worked harmonies are where the strength of Tres Chicas lies, and they would have been well served by exploring these further. Ultimately, Bloom, Red & the Ordinary Girl disappoints with weak arrangements, some careless vocals and a lack of focus, which is a pity because there are stronger moments that offer so much promise.

by Mike Wilson
26 May 2007

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