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The Greencards bring it live, so does Carrie Rodriguez

Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., July 11, 2007

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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The Greencards is not your typical nouveau bluegrass/rootsy band. Not when you consider that Carol Young and Kym Warner hail from Sydney and Adelaide, Australia respectively and Eamon McLoughlin comes from London. They formed in Austin after succumbing from the lure of American music scene and now live in Nashville.

But this is not a band that has suffered from the perceived negative of being in Music City - going too commercial. Instead, they apparently have benefited mightily from being in a vibrant scene filled with high class musicians.

Before a good crowd mid-week (helped by having very strong opener Carrie Rodriguez in a one-off pairing), The Greencards demonstrated that after one indie release and two on the respected Nashville-based indie label Dualtone that they bring it live. In fact, the trio sounds better live than they do on CD.

Two key ingredients make a huge difference to experiencing The Greencards (cute name, of course, for a bunch of foreigners). First the song craft of the band is incredibly strong. They write much of their own material with help from folks like Jedd Hughes, David Mead and Ronnie Bowman and have a slew of songs that sound really good.

There was no sense of The Greencards feeling rushed in dishing out the songs, adding to the beauty of the presentation. Their take on Patty Griffin's "What You Are" was indicative of that, as they let the song build to its natural conclusion. They mixed it up between instrumentals and vocals mainly from Young, cooking particularly on the encore songs of "Walls of Time" and "Old Joe Clark." Rodriguez and her guitarist were out for the encores, adding a ragged, but right close to an evening of solid music.

Young handles most of the lead vocals, while plucking away on electric bass. She does a good job in putting forth the songs, while maintaining an easy going stage presence, matter of fact in talking about music being "a tough business," while letting her parents think she's a big star. McLoughlin proved exceedingly humorous, joking after Young said that really loved Rodriguez (she meant as a musician, of course) that he had it in for Rodriguez's bass player.

It is the playing that really sets The Greencards apart. McLoughlin is a vibrant, tuneful violinist, making the songs really burst with energy. Warner does the same on mandolin, while guest acoustic guitarist Andy Falco, who has been playing off and on for two years, added a different texture to the songs as well, playing with a sense of force and purpose.

Rodriguez is best known as the unlikely musical partner of Chip Taylor ("Wild" and "Angel of the Morning"). They recorded several really excellent discs, but Rodriguez released "Seven Angels on a Bicycle" solo and is on the road supporting it.

The New York resident plays a good fiddle (although she was correct in saying McLoughlin was better) and has a strong guitarist, Hans Holzen of Nashville, adding a lot of twang to the music. Boston resident Kyle Kegerreis helped underpin the music on bass.

Like The Greencards, Rodriguez mixed it up as well, ensuring that sameness never set in. Rodriguez, daughter of Texas singer/songwriter David Rodriguez, has not fully reached her potential as the focal point, but the talent is there.