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Feb 8, 2006 at 2:06 pm
The Greencards

The Greencards

Thursday · Southgate House

What do you get when you cross two Australians with a Brit? I bet you didn't say Bluegrass. If your answer involved crocodiles and crooked teeth, you must not be familiar with The Greencards, a Newgrass buzzband with unique origins. Aussie mandolin player Kym Warner's father played banjo and fiddle, which is very unusual for that continent. He met bassist/vocalist Carol Young, who was singing in an Outback Country band and happened to share his desire to play Bluegrass. A lack of opportunities Down Under brought them to the U.S., where they met British-born fiddle player Eamon McLoughlin at a recording session in Austin in early 2003. After discovering their collective love for traditional American acoustic music, they began playing Bluegrass and Country standards at clubs in Austin. They quickly worked up some original material and released Movin' On, a solid effort, but more than a little derivative, probably due to their focus on the cover band. Nevertheless, it began climbing the charts and eventually Nashville took note. For their follow-up, they signed with Dualtone Records and enlisted Gary Paczosa (Alison Krauss, Nickel Creek) to engineer the album.

Weather and Water is the result, a stunning combination of plaintive ballads and fast-paced jamming. The trio splits singing duties, and all have hauntingly beautiful voices. The hint of accent that creeps into the vocals, when added to their tendency to keep the music tight rather than play it free and loose, gives the disc a sound very close to Celtic music. (McLoughlin's parents are Irish, which probably also contributes greatly to this perception.) It's enough of an edge to set The Greencards apart from their homegrown peers. Enough, in fact, that Bob Dylan took notice of the act and took them out to open his tour with Willie Nelson last year. Couple that with other high-profile festival slots and Top 10-list mentions, and they've got good reason to maintain their visa status. (Ezra Waller)

Rock 'N' Roll Soldiers with Less Than Jake

Friday · Bogart's

When Rock 'N' Roll Soldiers coalesced in their post high school scene in Eugene, Ore., back in 1997, they were, by their own admission, the worst band in town. It didn't help that the Soldiers were emulating the swaggering and confrontational Punk antics of heroes like The Stooges and their Australian counterparts Radio Birdmen (the Soldiers took their name from a Birdmen tour) in Eugene's mellow, peace/love college atmosphere. After four years of improving their songs and their frenetic Rock chops and inspiring little more than head-scratching responses in Eugene, the Soldiers attracted the attention of Gearhead Records, the Northwest's premier Punk/Garage Rock label. The label encouraged the Soldiers (guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Marty Larson-Xu, bassist Evan Seroffsky, drummer Oliver Brown, original guitarist Luc Gunn) to hit the studio, resulting in the controlled chaos of the band's first vinyl-only EP, The High School Sessions. Response to the release was immediate, earning the band opening slots on West Coast tours for the likes of The Donnas and New Bomb Turks. The next three years brought more tours, more work and new guitarist Kevin Sciou, necessitating another trip to the studio for the Soldiers' slightly more polished but equally intense follow-up EP, The Weak Blame the Strong. With the Soldiers' recent signing to Atlantic imprint East West, the band's profile has risen exponentially as the label has re-released the band's Gearhead mini-albums as The Two EPs, proof of the band's power and growth from one to the other. As Seroffsky and Brown provide a barely-tethered rhythm section and Sciou's guitar veers between Faces/Stooges slop and the Rolling Stones' loose grip, Larson-Xu is their equal in his frontman role, swaggering like Jagger, howling like Iggy and glamming like Steven Tyler. Like so many before them, Rock 'N' Roll Soldiers infuse Rock's past with contemporary energy to create a familiar but singular new future. (Brian Baker)

Lucy Kaplansky

Saturday · Jack Quinn's

Touring in the shadows of her 2004 release, The Red Thread, Lucy Kaplansky brings her folksy charms back to Greater Cincinnati this weekend. Since first recording in the early '90s, she has released four fine records of intimate, Folk-inflected songcraft. Originally inspired by her friend Shawn Colvin's artistry, Kaplansky, a Chicago native, began recording in 1994 on Red House Records, the indie Folk label. She can draw on her background as a practicing psychotherapist for her emotionally complex songwriting, although now she spends more time mapping the detours of her own mind. Until the late '90s, she juggled her overlapping careers in music and psychology, but eventually she gave up the doctor's office for the relative insecurities of the open road on tour. The Red Thread, her most recent disc, showcases her lovely, full voice, which flows over the warm arrangements. She shares songwriting credits with her husband, Richard Litvin, on the new release, as she has also done in the past. The title track and many of the other tunes reflect a thematic focus, which centers on Kaplansky's recent adoption of a Chinese baby; hence, the "Red Thread," a fabric that unites cultures together. Several songs also capture our post 9/11 world and specifically the effects on New York City, her adopted home. "Brooklyn Train" traces a subway ride, illuminating the unexpected moments of grace that can take place between strangers. She has recently turned up on some compilations, such as A Nod to Bob, a Red House Records' Dylan tribute. With her range of new original songs and imaginatively re-arranged cover tunes, including music by Richard Thompson, Buddy Miller, Elvis Costello and James McMurtry, Lucy Kaplansky brings a diverse repertoire to the stage. (Gregory Gaston)