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Bloom, Red and the Ordinary Girl

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Album Review

Tres Chicas, the country-rock band that includes North Carolina natives Lynn Blakey (Glory Fountain), Caitlin Cary (formerly of Whiskeytown), and Tonya Lamm (Hazeldine), was supposed to be a one-off. Their 2004 debut, Sweetwater, garnered solid reviews and folks turned out in droves to the small venues they played. The trio is now a going concern and Bloom Red and the Ordinary Girl picks up and takes off completely into the stratosphere where that album left off. They left American shores to record this, and enlisted Robert Trehern and Neil Brockbank to produce (the pair work with Nick Lowe a lot). Consequently, Brockbank and a slew of other mates like Bill Kirchen, B.J. Cole, Bob Loveday, and Steve Marwood help out the core band — Cary on violin, Blakey on acoustic guitar, and Lamm on electric guitar — with the addition of Geraint Watkins on piano and organ (on loan from the Van Morrison band), Matt Radford on bass, and Trehern on drums. The music is simply the finest set of country-rock love songs you're likely to hear. It's tough, mysterious, and utterly feminine. The trio's voices are way upfront, presiding over a set of originals and covers that are deeply moving, even startling, in their earthy elegance. The opening cut "Drop Me Down" comes from the North Carolina band Lou Ford, and in Tres Chicas' reading of it, could easily have been done by Gram Parsons & the Fallen Angels and Emmylou Harris with a gospel choir. To be truthful, it's devastatingly beautiful. Another cover, "If You Think That It's All Right," which is the book-end piece that closes the disc, is by '70s pop-country star Johnny Carver. Here, strains of pub rock, Nash Vegas countrypolitan, and skiffle blend and smear, held together by vocal performances that are breathtaking. Another cover, "My Love," written by Watkins, is a mid-tempo, folk-country weeper that could be the finest cut on the set. It's lyric is so visceral and simple it could have been written by Scottish poet Robert Burns. Tres Chicas, with sparse percussion to accompany Watkins' piano-organ and background slab-back acoustic guitars, weave a soundscape behind the instruments that brings this song of ardor and devotion home. But these women are fine songwriters in their own right, too. Blakey's "Red," is a country waltz that comes from the heart of the mountain valley, it echoes the British folk tradition of three centuries ago. It's a weeper that will make listeners smile with its grimacing anger. Cary's "Stone Love Song" is indeed that, but it's a swing number that evokes smoky lounges, jukeboxes, and a pool table, but more than these one can picture in the mind's eye couples swaying together on a parquet dancefloor, getting closer and closer to one another. Martin Winning's clarinet enters in the chorus, it transcends the country genre almost entirely except for the slightly out-of-tune fiddle, which is covered by strings and tasty electric guitar lines. The piano solo brings jazz into the picture, and the song just drifts into the nocturnal void where lovers entwine under the drifting moonlight. Picture the Andrews Sisters singing a country swing tune and you begin to get it. Tres Chicas have thrown down the gauntlet to the entire Americana genre. They had to go to Britain to make this record, because they could never have achieved the subtlety needed to make this sound in the States. But in doing so, they've created an utterly American album. They blend and weave styles and modes and colors, effortlessly and in concert with one another. The singing blows away virtually everything in the genre, and the execution here offers a watermark that will be tough to beat. Essentially, they've transcended Americana and gone into the realms where country music has always sought to go — to a plain with equal footings in pop, jazz, and swing — and Tres Chicas have achieved these realms gracefully.

Customer Reviews

Masterpiece of Harmony

Oh the perfect harmonies from Caitlin, Lynn and Tonya! I've listened to their new album about 7 times now and read all the lyrics, as I knew I would, and I just love it, as I knew I would. My favorite song off the album is 11, "Slip So Easily." I melt when I hear this, as if Lynn was reminiscing about the last time my own heart was broken, just trod upon, so many years ago and Caitlin’s violin work wraps delicate melodies around her sweet, wistful vocals. I also feel a close personal connection to 4, "All the Shade Trees in Bloom." And not to only focus on Lynn here...10, "400 Flamingos," is also a work of art and Caitlin does a beautiful job of making me feel the almost desperate hurt of the song. There are several tracks--I'd say especially 2 "Stone Love Song" and 7 "Only Broken"--that have a refreshing jazz feel to them. The composition and the upbeat additions from a long list of notable contributing musicians kick it up a notch, keeping the album from becoming too heavy and somber. Overall though, Bloom, Red & the Ordinary Girl reflects a folk tradition that is so often lost by modern singer/songwriters. If you feel distraught over the loss of the art of folk music that was so prevalent in the 60’s and 70’s, this release will renew your faith. I love both the first and this new album, for their respective inimitable qualities. Lyrically, this album seems to have been written during a time of reflection and loss, heartbreak and personal inwardly-directed friction. It’s not depressing; don’t get me wrong--these are love songs that convey deep-rooted emotions that we all struggle to convey during the hard times, they’re the reasons that it just sometimes doesn’t work out, and reflection on the different stages of relationships that everyone has endured, whether you’re 20 or 80. I sense a lot less fun, hope and attitude on Bloom, Red & the Ordinary Girl and more reflection, wistfulness and hurt—welcome to Life and Love 102. However, they leave us with the upbeat “If You Think It’s All Right” perfected by the inclusion of my favorite instrument, the phenomenal pedal if to say that you can reflect and overanalyze all you want, but hey, if it’s okay with you, it’s okay with me and let’s go take a walk and enjoy each other. Perhaps this is now a Chicas tradition to wake us dreamers up at the end of an emotional ride as they did with “Take the Devil Out of Me” on their first release.

Where's the kick?

Read several wonderful reviews of this CD, and have been a fan of that sweet Whiskeytown fiddle-playing and harmonies. This is a much different style. Very "nice". While beautiful lyrically, it just didn't have any edge or energy in the delivery.

Just to the Left of Country

Sampling these tunes will give you a sense of the alternative country sound Tres Chicas brings. Don't know why the Genre category is "Rock". It's a mellowed, soulful, side-step to Country music that can take the listener to places you can't go with most mainstream country music. That's why I give cinco estrellas to Tres Chicas.


Formed: 1999 in Raleigh, NC

Genre: Country

Years Active: '00s

The women of alternative country trio Tres Chicas first came together through friendship and a mutual respect for each other's singing in early 1999. Accomplished musicians and friends through the years, Lynn Blakey (Glory Fountain, Let's Active, Oh-OK), Caitlin Cary (Whiskeytown), and Tonya Lamm (Hazeldine) comprise the Raleigh, NC-based group whose music combines sweet vocal harmonies with elements of country, folk, and rock. They first sang together publicly during a late-night spontaneous singalong...
Full Bio
Bloom, Red and the Ordinary Girl, Tres Chicas
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Customer Ratings