ake Two Aussie musicians, add a Brit for good measure, and what do you get? When it comes to the current Americana and roots scene, this talented trio of expatriates equals The Greencards - a hot, young bluegrass band, now based in Austin.
The Greencards' music - they just released ""Weather and Water" June 28 on Dualtone - echoes the best work of Alison Krauss + Union Station and Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, but adds its own stamp to this old time music. The band has a firm grasp on instrumentation, and the harmonies have as much soul as a street-corner blues singer. "Weather and Water" features just the right mix of ballads, instrumentals and front-porch pickin' tunes.
Hanging out just outside New York City in the midst of an early summer tour of minor league baseball stadiums opening for Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, Kym Warner - the band's mandolin and bouzouki player - explains how three musicians from parts of the world not traditionally known for its high and lonesome sounds hooked up. The partnership started in Austin when the two Australians - Warner and Carol Young (bass) - met Englishman Eamon McLoughlin (fiddle) at a recording studio while recording on another artist's session.
The trio worked together to try to break into the Austin music scene. They soon scored a regular Sunday show playing three-hour sets of bluegrass and country covers.
"We just came over here, moved to Austin and decided to put a band together... that was pretty much the reason to come over," he says. "We plugged away and started writing music and getting to perform original music..., and then we got the chance to get out and play as an acoustic act on the scene by doing some bluegrass festivals, but also some Americana type stuff. It's been great. We couldn't ask for anything more. We are really lucky to be on this tour."
So, how did Lady Luck inspire a couple of kids from Down Under and one acoustic-loving mate from Britain to head overseas and choose to land in Austin?
"It's just such a great music city," Warner says. "We were well aware of the strength of the Austin music scene. When you are putting a band together from the ground up, you need a vehicle to be able to get out and perform live as often as you can without traveling too much - you can't just drive around and walk up to a town where no one has ever heard of you and expect people to show up. You have to build a fan base in one area and work on your material and on your show."
"Austin presented us with that opportunity second to no other place I would imagine. We were able to work four to five nights per week there over a two-year period since there are so many venues to play and so many people to play to on a regular basis."
One wonders whether it was hard for these three foreigners to break into the highly competitive musical community in Austin?
"I actually found it harder moving there first to get a gig as a side person because of not knowing anyone," says Warner. "But as soon as we put the band together and started our first show, I found it was not as difficult to get work because I think venues are always looking for new things...stuff that is cool. The music public in Austin is certainly always looking for the next new thing to catch on to...something they can dig, go see and be a part of. They really embrace you and they like being with an artist from the ground up."
"I can't speak highly enough about the Austin music scene."
Since forming in Austin at the beginning of 2003, The Greencards have seen support for their acoustically-inclined sounds steadily rise - gaining accolades and awards for their infectious brand of music along the way.
At the 2004 Austin Music Awards, the trio won a Best New Band award and were also nominated for Best New Emerging Talent at the 2004 Americana Music Awards.
Their debut record, "Movin' On" (self-released in 2004 and re-released by Dualtone this year) was well received and began getting radio airplay in Texas. It opened some doors and led to better gigs, but The Greencards were still very much a local success.
The band, not long after the record's release, headed to Australia to play a few shows and visit family. While they were gone, the album made it onto the Americana charts - eventually rising to number five.
Before long the band had more than 200 dates under their belts and had sold close to 10,000 albums out of the back of their van and through the Internet.
That's when Nashville labels started calling; The Greencards settled with Dualtone.
This Nashville-based label helped The Greencards achieve one of their other dreams - getting to work with top-tier producer Gary Paczosa, known for his work with the Dixie Chicks, Nickel Creek, Alison Krauss and most recently The Chapmans.
"We spoke with Dualtone about it even before we signed with them about exactly what we wanted to do with this next record stylistically, and one of the big things is that we wanted to make it with Gary, and they were all for it," explains Warner. "Going back 10 years living in Australia sitting on my lounge room floor listening to Alison Krauss' 'So long, So Wrong,' I never thought I would get the opportunity to work with Gary Paczosa."