The Brick Album
Darling Street Records
By Al Kaufman
The Aussies are doing everything they can to out-American the Americans in music. Kasey Chambers continues to make country music better than anything heard on country radio north of the equator. And, since 2003, Aussies Carol Young and Kym Warner have helmed a four-piece that continues to break new ground in bluegrass. The Greencards have toured with everyone from Bob Dylan to Willie Nelson. Their music gleefully borrows from a number of different genres. For The Brick Album, they also went the American DIY way. Instead of going with a record label, the band reached out to fans to “buy a brick” on the album cover, which is subsequently plastered with over 100 names.
The Greencards have always loved to stretch the boundaries of bluegrass, and continue to do so on The Brick Album. “Heart Fixer” (featuring Vince Gill on guitar) has a Latin feel to it, while “Mrs. Madness” has the light jazz feeling of early Norah Jones.
But no matter what they add, what the Greencards so best is play bluegrass. Sam Bush adds his slide mandolin to the opener “Make It Out West,” a haunting melody that evokes the old west of the best Clint Eastwood movies. There is some downright pretty finger picking on the instrumental “Tale of Kangario” (and everywhere else on the album for that matter), but they really let their fingers fly on another instrumental, the perennially chord changing “Adelaide.”
There is a pretty guitar opening to “Naked On the River,” in which Young asks, “Why are we fighting on a Sunday/When the good folks are in prayer?” She goes on to decide she just wants to be a follower, like a herd of sheep, before the song evolves into a “da-da-da-di-dee-die” chorus. Young is glorious as she presents herself naked of any pretension. Her voice is pure and clean, pretty in an Ivory soap sort of way.
“Pretty” is the word that would best describe The Brick Album in its entirety. How else to describe the mandolins and fiddles on “Faded,” or the heavenly “Girl in the Telescope,” or the deceptively simple sounding duet, “Loving You Is the Only Way to Fly”? Like the rest of the album, the song is rich in instrumentation, but the layers are subtle and complimentary. They don’t scream to be noticed individually, but work together for the good of the song. These guys know they’re good. (Want proof? There are no overdubs on this record. Every song was recorded in one take.) They don’t need to prove their skills by making smoke inducing solos. They prove it by practicing restraint. How un-American.
The Greencards play Eddie’s Attic Friday, September 9.