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Around Our Town...Music to My Ears

The Greencards: Weather and Water

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03/01/2006 - Something strange happened way back in the eighties. Okay, let's face it. A whole lot of strange stuff went on back then, much of which many of us will never live down. In the late 1980's, I was managing a record store and listening to everything I could get my ears on. I was pretty much tuned in to a variety of musical movements, and one emerged back then that still befuddles me to this day. Alternative Rock. Huh? I never could figure out exactly what "alternative rock" was. I tried, too. I asked record company reps, musicians, audiophiles, and even my horse. No one could define it. The horse came closest, because she didn't say anything. She simply switched her ears back and forth a couple of times, then looked away…

Nope. No one can define alternative rock, but you kinda know it when you hear it. Well, brace yourself, because we are now faced with another alternative. Yep, it's country, sort of. About ten years ago, my musical antennas picked up the term. Alternative Country. Same dilemma. You can't define it, but you know it when you hear it. I asked my horse about it, and once again, she didn't have much to say on the matter. She likes it better than that rock stuff, though. I can tell. It's all the licking and chewing, you know. If you don't know what I meant by that, go buy a Monty Roberts video (I'm positive he'd be happy to sell you one).

It turns out that the Greencards fall into the loose category of alternative country. I guess the best way to define alternative country music is to say that it's country music that you'll never hear on a country music station. Calling the Greencards country, even of the alternative ilk, is a bit of a misnomer, though. They are bluegrass. Sort of. But then isn't bluegrass, country? Sheesh. It's all so cotton pickin' confusing.

It just occurred to me that I should probably quit goofing around and just tell you about the Greencards. Well, they're really good. That's not an assessment of their moral character, of which I'm certainly no judge, but of their musical ability…also of which I'm no judge, but then you know that by now. You know that, but you read this column anyway because…you are extremely bored. That must be it. For the life of me, I can't come up with any other good reason why you'd…oops, another ellipse. I've got to stop…AAAHHHH!

Carol Young, Kym (a guy) Warner, and Eamon (will someone tell me how to pronounce that?) McLaughlin comprise the alternative country/bluegrass/folk group that I have been threatening to write about in this column. They get help from a few of their friends to augment the instrumentation. Carol plays bass (not the fish, the instrument) and sings, beautifully, I might add. Okay, I will add that. Eamon plays the viola, fiddle, cello, and anything else that looks similar to one of those. He also sings, though not as good as Carol. Kym plays the mandolin and the bouzuki, and sings. He sings better than Eamon, but not as good as Carol.

This little ol' alternative band has managed to craft a nice slice of newgrass. That's what I'm gonna call it. To me it sounds like bluegrass for the young folks. The musicianship is top notch, sounding beautiful, vibrant, and fresh, while managing more than a nod to old-timers such as Bill Monroe and the Osborne Brothers. Now that I've thought about it for a minute, the Greencards have a lot in common with Nickel Creek, which is a very good thing. It's encouraging to see younger musicians take hold of the bluegrass baton.

As always, the only problem a great band such as this will likely face is a lack of exposure. To their great advantage though, the band has recently been on tour with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, which ought to help some. I'm confident that the Greencards will have more than their share of success, despite that fact that they toil out of the mainstream. With folks like Bob, Willie, and me backing them, how can they go wrong?

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