Listen Up: Wednesday, March 01, 2006
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A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Tres Chicas

Bloom, Red & The Ordinary Girl (Yep Roc Records)

By Jimmy Fowler

If your c.d. player could use a jagged little estrogen pill but Sleater-Kinney is too raucous for your tastes, the North Carolina-based trio Tres Chicas just might be the ideal hormone replacement — lady-like in their majestic, gorgeous three-part harmonies but possessed of the songwriting acumen that only real womanhood in the trenches of heartbreak can bestow. Their sophomore effort Bloom, Red & The Ordinary Girl is uniquely muscular and fearless in laying out what these artists want and what the lovers in their lives seem barely able or willing to give them. To be sure, singer-songwriters Caitlin Cary (late of Whiskeytown), Tonya Lamm (refugee from Hazelden), and Lynn Blakely of Glory Fountain aren’t trying to start a conspicuous riot with grrlish rage here — if you don’t listen too hard to the lyrics, these dozen tunes recorded in London offer a rapturous countrypolitan daze of sheer vocal pulchritude, immediately reminding the listener why k.d. lang fell for Patsy Cline in the first place. Producers Neil Brockbank and Robert Trehern flesh out the instrumentation from Tres Chicas’ spare debut Sweetwater with gospel- and blues-dramatic keyboard touches on otherwise languorous arrangements. The Chicas’ voices soar effortlessly, but it’s the words that keep them tied to this bitter earth: In “Red,” a gentle strum-along of romantic fed-upped-ness, the observation that “I’m as red as the petals of a dead stinking rose” follows fast on the sentiment “I’ll see you in hell.” The bobbing lope of “My Love” offers a deadpan warning to any paramour looking for a savior: “I’m not Jesus Christ / I know you never said I was / I’m just sayin’ it ‘cause I can.” “Keep a close watch on me / I might fall apart” seems to be the central theme of the chilling and thrilling “Shade Trees in Bloom,” which is unapologetic about the idea of relationship as refuge. Cary’s sublime “Still I Run” seems destined to be covered by artists male and female, angry and mournful, country and pop — its defeated refrain “If you’re not chasing me / Why am I running?” exemplifies the gloriously tattered lace that’s stitched throughout this fatalistic beauty of an album.


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