Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Sway" / Tres Chicas

Is it country? Is it folk? Is it jazz? Let's just call it Americana and settle in, because these three women from North Carolina -- Lynn Blakey, Caitlin Cary, and Tonya Lamm -- blend all those traditions to yield a gorgeous, soulful sound. I'm a sucker for lush female vocal harmonies, my ear programmed early by Cass Elliott and Michelle Phillips, or Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie; but when these gals harmonize strong and clear, it reminds me more of Emmylou, Linda, and Dolly on that Trio album. You get the feeling that these Three Chicks are really on the same page of music . . . and, oh, they're probably not sleeping with each others' boyfriends.

This 2006 album, Bloom, Red, and the Ordinary Girl, is another Nick Lowe-related discovery for me; Tres Chicas went to London to record it with a gang of British musicians, including several who've worked with Nick (he himself plays bass on a couple tracks). Robert Treherne's copasetic drumming and Geraint Watkins's elegantly tossed-off accents on the electric piano give this track a lush groove, over which the vocals can scat and swoop and swirl all they please.

The chorus repeats over and over "How we sway / In the breeze", and with that langorous beat, the sexy frisson of the vocals, at first I got an image of a couple dancing, swaying close together. But then I dove deeper into the lyrics and realized it's a lot more interesting than that: It's about how to move and give, like a tree buffeted by the wind, how to be flexible enough to weather life's ups and downs (or at any rate, a relationship's ups and downs). Not your usual candy-gloss pop sentiment, eh?

"You can't have too much faith / In a person, or place / You can't have too much room to breathe / To breathe," says the first verse. Amen, ladies. This is a love song all right, but it's from the perspective of someone who's been around a bit, who's suffered her share of hurt and loss. I like that; I don't feel like these girlfriends are lying to me. And with those soaring vocals, the three-part harmonies blending perfectly, you can relax into its warm wisdom, shifting and swaying right along with them. Do yourself a favor -- check these girls out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another fine post Holly! This record was very much overlooked in '06 and it's probably my favorite. I mean, c'mon, they went to London to record with Nick Lowe's band and great producer Neil Brockbank and subsequently delivered a thing of beauty with no acclaim? Obviously, these Chicas care more about making great records than receiving grammies or whatever.
It's a stunner from start to finish, and this particular tune set right in the middle is the right centerpiece. Nick Lowe's bassline, the cool backbeat by Trehern, the smooth and subtle washes of organ by G. Watkins and those lovely vocals.
Keep up the good word on your blog!