The Greencards are a trio consisting of Australians Carol Young and Kym Warner along with U.K. native Eamon McLoughlin. Up-and-comers with talent to spare and an eclectic range of influences, they have earned spots opening for both Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. They were awarded an Austin Music Award in 2003, an Americana Music Award in 2006, and, in 2008, earned a “Best Country Instrumental Performance” Grammy nomination. Their albums have incorporated blues, world music, and jazz, and have been labeled roots music, modern bluegrass, and Americana.
This brings us to their Sugar Hill debut, and the question, what is Fascination?
Fascination integrates elements of folk, country, modern bluegrass and Americana, and often draws upon elements of blues and world music one would expect only to find on National Public Radio. Yet, apply any of these labels to their latest album and they seem not only to fall short, but to feel completely inaccurate. Some will make comparisons to Nickel Creek or The Duhks, but The Greencards, while also technically breathtaking and acoustically driven, inspire comparison primarily because they have consistently moved towards a sound of their own.
With Fascination, The Greencards are held together by adventurousness and fueled by tight musical arrangements and the brilliant cadence of Carol Young’s vocals. It is also notable that Fascination marks the first time the group has worked with a producer, as it appears Jay Joyce (Patty Griffin, John Hiatt, The Duhks) has helped solidify a sound that has sometimes been muddled in past
The Greencards shine on the instrumental “Little Siam,” deliver up some indie-pop immediacy with acoustic rhythms on “Fascination,” delve into world music with “Chico Calling,” and finally flirt with their modern bluegrass roots on “Outskirts of Blue” and “Rivertown.”
This range is more impressive when one considers all but a single song on the album were written or co-written with a member of the Greencards. “Davey Jones,” a hauntingly sung tale of the dangers of the sea, serves as an excellent example of the strengths of Carol Young’s vocals and is the sole outside creation on the album. “Three Four Time” and “Into the Blue” are the only sleepers, somewhat cerebral and inaccessible at first listen.
With Fascination, The Greencards move away from eclectic sampling and into a sound that is intellectually and emotionally theirs. Fascination is an argument for music without borders; a melding of influences held together by fine lead vocals, ethereal instrumentation, and a sense that musicians don’t have to be anyone but themselves.
I’m not sure what section of the store you will find The Greencards new album (most likely bluegrass, Americana, or perhaps even country), but I am sure you should seek it out all the same.