The Greencards | Viridian (Dualtone)

viridianRefreshingly, the Greencards are neither hidebound by bluegrass traditions nor divorced from them. Combining Anglo and American, folk and popular, the separate influences upon their sound are apparent but never dominant.

 

 

 

The aptly-named Viridian is a lush, soft, and very strong album by the English/Australian bluegrass trio the Greencards. As the musical landscape has become increasingly fractured in the MySpace age, bluegrass has become a repository – or junkyard – for bands that play acoustic instruments. Bands as disparate as Old Crow Medicine Show, the Duhks, and Cherryholmes are often dumped – by fans and music executives alike – into the same genre. Perhaps as a consequence, contemporary bluegrass bands are often forced into either stale, antiseptic recreations of the past or flashy, cosmic flights of fancy that take them outside the realm of the recognizable.

Refreshingly, the Greencards are neither hidebound by bluegrass traditions nor divorced from them. Combining Anglo and American, folk and popular, the separate influences upon their sound are apparent but never dominant. Lying under the lush and gorgeous Britannic topsoil of Viridian are strong roots of the blues – especially on the opening track, "Waiting on the Night," and the scorching "Lonesome Side of Town." And throughout all a driving, vibrant pulse, behind which Bill Monroe's mandolin chop (or Jimmy Martin's pounding guitar) wouldn't feel out of place.

Carol Young, the bassist, handles most of the lead singing duties with a soulful, emotive, and tender voice. Eamon McLoughlin has a gorgeous, melodic fiddling style, and Kym Warner's mandolin and bouzouki work is simultaneously tasteful and impressive. Their playing, while technically remarkable, is never self-indulgent, and the songs are far more than mere excuses for flashy solos. Rather, the playing lends further emotional depths to the well-crafted songs. "River of Sand" and "All the Way From Italy" are especially memorable and sweet ballads. The album is also brilliantly sequenced. There is a narrative pace to the tracks, as they slow down or surge forward in all the appropriate places, ending on the playful, satisfying instrumental "Mucky the Duck."

While the band is a bunch of Brits and Aussies playing American roots music, the music of Viridian never feels appropriative. Rather, these three musicians approach the traditional music of America with great respect and an instinctive feel, all while never forgoing or ignoring the influences of their own isles' music. Viridian is fresh and green, sumptuous and flourishing; simply a great album that demonstrates the breadth and vitality still to be found in bluegrass music. A | Brad Proctor

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