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The Greencards push "Fascination"

Cafe 939, Boston, April 30, 2009

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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The Greencards must have a lot of faith in "Fascination," their week-old disc because they played almost all of the 12 songs before a crowd doubtlessly unfamiliar with the new songs.

And they are different for the heretofore country/bluegrass band. Yes, those elements are clearly still part of the mix for the quartet (officially a trio, but touring with an acoustic guitarist), but they have gone beyond that with jazzy elements thrown in.

Playing so many new songs could have proven difficult for many bands, but that was not the case for The Greencards because "Fascination" possesses many meaty songs and frankly, the music isn't all that difficult to access anyway.

A few songs had a Bela Fleck feel to them with the jazzy bent. The Greencards - Australians Carol Young and Kym Warner plus Brit Eamon McLoughlin - seemed to make a conscious effort to switch it up. "The new album is a little different for us," said Young before launching into the pretty sounding Water in the Well. This one, we tried branching out a little bit more...something a bit more creative for ourselves."

Young did most of the singing, and she has a good, lead voice, while strumming away on bass. She turned in a good performance on the new Chico Calling, slightly recalling lines from Me and Bobby McGee. But she certainly shared the musical spotlight. Warner and McLoughlin were stellar on mandolin and fiddle respectively, rooting the music in bluegrass and country sounds.

The band also was aided by fourth member Jake Stargel, who they plucked from The Lovell Sisters 18 months ago. He's quite a fine acoustic player and often shared the spotlight with his fellow band members. The cohesiveness was evident time and again with the songs having a good build to them.

The Greencards mixed it up between lively instrumentals, slower songs like the jazzy title cut of the new CD to more uptempo material, like the fast River Town, with Warner on lead vocals. A cover of soft and different sounding Patty Griffin's What You Are, where Warner constantly strummed the mandolin.

The lone negative was that not once, but twice, lyrics were flubbed causing songs to be stopped. Both Warner and McLoughlin messed up lines. McLoughlin restarted the song only to mess up the lyrics again until Young stepped in to help set him on the right path. After Warner's miscue, they bagged the song entirely and went to something a lot safer, an instrumental. Fortunately, they smartly made light of it all in a humorous way, but still the damage was done.

These mistakes were really too bad (not to mention inexcusable) because otherwise The Greencards were thoroughly entertaining in pushing their batch of sturdy new songs.