THE GREENCARDS "Viridian" Dualtone
WHEN THE GREENCARDS moved from Austin, the self-proclaimed "live music capital of the world," t o Nashville at the beginning of 2005, the string-band trio was making a conscious decision to shift its emphasis from jam-grass picking to Americana songcraft. That transition was reflected on the group's 2005 album, "Weather and Water," and is completed on its new disc, "Viridian." The instrumental skills of mandolinist Kym Warner and fiddler Eamon McLoughlin are still evident, but they are clearly in a supporting role behind the songs written with such Nashville pros as David Mead, Ronnie Bowman and Jedd Hughes.
Most of the songs are sung by the Greencards' bassist Carol Young, whose silky soprano is the seductive center of the album's first single, "Waiting on the Night." When she sighs with the pleasure of being young and on the cusp of a promising evening, the effect is enchanting and is reinforced by the tasteful playing of her bandmates, guest guitarist Bryan Sutton and Chris Carmichael's string arrangements. A similar approach clicks on "All the Way From Italy" and "River of Sand." A pair of up-tempo bluegrass tunes co-written by Warner and Jerry Salley offer welcome bursts of energy.
By emphasizing the songwriting so much, however, the Greencards put a lot of weight on the lyrics, and though the words to their originals are always well crafted, they are rarely special. The album's most striking lyrics, in fact, come from an 1896 poem by A.E. Housman, adapted by McLoughlin into the Pogues-like romp, "When I Was in Love With You." Nearly as good are a pair of ballads written by Kim Richey and Mike Henderson. To break out of the string-band pack, the Greencards need to find more songs like those three.
-- Geoffrey Himes
Appearing Monday at Jammin' Java.