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Tres Chicas
Bloom, Red, And The Ordinary Girl
Yep Roc Records

Caitlin Cary, Tonya Lamm, and Lynn Blakey - better known as Tres Chicas - are definitely '60s chicks...at least, musically speaking. The latest CD by the three lovely North Carolina-bred chanteuses, Bloom, Red, And The Ordinary Girl, is grounded in the late 1960's California folk and country-rock scenes, as well as countrypolitan, gospel, and soul music of the same era. Bloom, Red, And The Ordinary Girl finds the Chicas working with London-based producers Neil Brockbank and Robert Trehern, as well as keyboardist/songwriter Geraint Watkins, to produce an album full of sophisticated harmonies and sublime melodies.

Bloom, Red, And The Ordinary Girl begins with a gospel-tinged cover of North Carolina band Lou Ford's "Drop Me Down," which features lilting three-part harmonies over organ flourishes by Watkins that are worthy of The Band's Garth Hudson. "Drop Me Down" is a cry for redemption, for an end to personal suffering and sorrow. Cary's "Stone Love Song," by contrast, is equal parts jazz and classic country with subtle flute and clarinet solos by guest Martin Winning accentuated by Cary's stunning violin reels - all over Trehern's muted brush drums and Matt Radford's exquisite upright bass. Lyrically, "Stone Love Song" is a modern love song, equally aware of the difficulties and rewards of love.

The album's title comes from three quite different songs. The Chicas' cover of Watkins' tender love song "My Love" is reminiscent of The Byrds' early albums. "I'm not Jesus Christ/just an ordinary girl," Blakey sings in her fluid soprano. Blakey's "All The Shade Trees In Bloom," meanwhile, would not have been out of place on fellow North Carolina native Tift Merritt's 2002 debut, Bramble Rose. Laced with gospel piano and anthemic strings, "All The Shade Trees" is a love song as well, but the chorus hints at a grander theme - longing for beauty and wanting it all. "I want something beautiful, I want something true/I want everything I want, maybe with you/I want the sun, I want the stars, the light of the moon/And all of the shade trees in bloom," Cary croons in the soaring refrain. Cary's "Red" is quite another story entirely. An angry, anti-love song set to a folk-rock melody, "Red" features some of Cary's most poetic, searing lyrics. "What is the shade of a promise?/What is the color of a lie?" she wails. "Red" fails in other places, however. The opening line, "I'm as red as the red of a barn painted red," is a lackluster beginning.

Cary's songwriting prowess is more apparent in the soul-pop anthem "Still I Run." A song of infidelity and heartbreak, "Still I Run" like the album's opening track showcases Watkins' emotive organ swells. The mood then switches to the political with the Cary and Blakey-penned "Man Of The People" - a folk-rock protest in the tradition of Woody Guthrie and Joan Baez. Clearly an anti-Bush tome, "Man of the People" finds the Chicas singing about "privilege in a flannel shirt" and "faded hearts in the heartland." "400 Flamingos" brings the focus back to love and relationships. A simple love song with sophisticated lyrics, "400 Flamingos" features the immortal refrain "my heart is plain and yours."

Bloom, Red, And The Ordinary Girl ends with a reworking of Blakey's redemptive love song "Slips So Easily" (which originally appeared on the Glory Fountain CD, The Beauty of 23, in 2003) and a cover of '60s country-pop crooner Johnny Carver's "If You Think That It's All Right." "Slips So Easily" features some of the Chicas most compelling harmonies over a violin-dominated melody, while "If You Think That It's All Right" is a blissful countrypolitan tune featuring lively pedal steel courtesy of noted session player B. J. Cole.

Bloom, Red, And The Ordinary Girl finds Tres Chicas contemplating all aspects of life and love, from happy endings to broken hearts and the everyday uncertainty in between, over pop-infused country-rock melodies. It is a decidedly optimistic, upbeat musical affair for the most part, but not unrealistically so - making it an enjoyable listen.

-Tracy M. Rogers

Track Listing:
1. Drop Me Down
2. Stone Love Song
3. My Love
4. All The Shade Trees In Bloom
5. Red
6. Sway
7. Only Broken
8. Still I Run
9. The Man Of The People
10. 400 Flamingos
11. Slip So Easily
12. If You Think That It's All Right

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