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The Greencards' new 'The Brick Album' features Vince Gill, Sam Bush

From the first notes struck together in 2003 through tours with Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, up to and beyond their fourth studio album in 2009, The Greencards have won steadily escalating acclaim for their multi-dimensional Americana vision. Each step they’ve taken has widened their appeal. Their releases have topped the Billboard Bluegrass charts. In both 2008 (for their Viridian album) and 2010 (for Fascination), they were nominated for Grammy Awards in the “Best Country Instrumental” category. They’ve earned ovations from “newgrass” music devotees at MerleFest and from indie-rock loyalists at Lollapalooza and the Austin City Limits Festival. RollingStone.com noted, “This imported band is creating some of the finest Americana around.”

But this four-piece band, spearheaded by Australians Carol Young and Kym Warner, is interested less in past accomplishments than in looking ahead for new goals to achieve. Produced and engineered by studio veteran Justin Niebank (Vince Gill, Marty Stuart, Keith Urban), The Brick Album on the band’s own Darling Street Records is the first to successfully infuse The Greencards’ eclectic musical references with the excitement they generate onstage.

“We’ve been striving for this since our first record,” says mandolinist Warner. “We recorded totally in one room this time, with very little isolation. It was all about doing the performance now, without going back to add anything later on.”

“What you’re hearing is all one take,” bassist and singer Young adds. “If someone really didn’t like what we’d done, we’d play it all again from the top rather than drop the part in. When you drop in a part, you lose a little bit of the feel. You’ve got to get a run-up to it.”

That immediacy was heightened by the addition of two new members of the group. Tyler Andal, a young fiddle whiz from Tennessee, reinforces both The Greencards’ grounding in roots music and their eagerness to let in the fresh air of newgrass, rock, folk elements, Latin America and much more. “He thinks outside the box,” Warner explains. “We’ve always had a strong rhythmic aspect to our music, and Tyler definitely brings that.”

The other recent arrival, former National Flatpicking Championship winner Carl Miner, excels as a guitarist in that tradition but more importantly applies his virtuosity equally well beyond it. “He’s good at everything,” Warner says. “He’s one of the most versatile musicians, and probably the most consistent, we’ve ever played with. With Tyler and him in the band, everyone is pulling in the same direction.”

Make that “directions.” The Brick Album kicks off with “Make It Out West,” a rhythmically irresistible chant powered by guest artist Sam Bush’s slide mandolin, with lyrics conjuring restless dreams and far horizons. From there the songs take listeners through ever-changing vistas — the Spanish-inflected “Heart Fixer,” whose vocals by Young and guest artist Vince Gill stir memories of Marty Robbins; the slinky, teasing “Mrs. Madness,” written by Warner after a night of watching Bored to Death; the magical “Girl in the Telescope,” which floats like a feather in sunlight; “Tale of KangaRio,” an intimate Brazilian dance of mandolin and guitar; “Loving You Is the Only Way To Fly,” a dreamy evocation of the Louvin and Everly Brothers, the pillars of classic country duet vocals.

There’s much more, but two tracks bear special mention. The wistful “Faded” is a sweetly harmonized tune, so natural that you don’t even notice its unusual 5/4 time signature. Similarly, “Adelaide” is a brisk instrumental, built over a rushing stream of chord changes made accessible by melodies and solos of eloquent coherence.

“As we get older, the more I think about it, the more we want something in music you can cling to,” Warner says. “That comes with melody. What we do on The Brick Album allows us to have something not only on the record but also on our live show. It brings it back to “more than anything, this is about lyrics and harmony.”

It’s also about integrating fans more than ever into the band’s process. The Greencards followed an independent path with The Brick Album, partnering with its followers rather than with record labels to fund its sessions. In exchange for contributing to the “Buy A Brick” project, each donor had his or her name permanently inscribed on a brick within the wall that comprises its cover art.

“The times have changed a lot in the music industry, not so much in the creative side but in business side of making music,” Warner says. “We just wanted to give something unique and special to people, not just by sending them an early copy of the record by putting their names on the artwork. That makes them fully a part of it.”

But it’s the music that makes us all part of this journey. Warner and Young were both steeped in country music; she charted several No. 1 singles in her homeland as a solo artist and he won the Australian National Bluegrass Mandolin Championship for four consecutive years. They moved to Austin, put together the first incarnation of The Greencards there and today call Nashville home.

Along the way, they have picked up some influential fans. Their 2009 release, Fascination, prompted Rosanne Cash to say, “The Greencards are a little island of truth and beauty in a sea of artifice and mediocrity. What a fine group, and what a great collection of songs.” Buddy Miller called it one of the year’s “most inventive discs.”

With this new release, the world becomes more than ever The Greencards’ stage. Their sound defies category, balancing taste and technique, engaging lyrics and melodies and wildly creative arrangements. There may be a wall on The Brick Album’s cover, but the future suggested on these tracks knows no barrier.

National Jazz Museum in Harlem Jan. 24 - Jan. 30, 2011

Upcoming events at the National Jazz Museum in Harlem for this week include:

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jazz for Curious Listeners
Christian McBride Hosts: My Musical Heroes
7:00 – 8:30pm
Location: NJMH Visitors Center
(104 E. 126th Street, Suite 2C)
FREE | For more information: 212-348-8300
Christian’s Subject: Motown—The Jazz Singers

Our Co-Director, the brilliant bassist/composer/bandleader Christian McBride continues his insightful series on his musical heroes. This evening’s program will shed light on some music usually not included in a jazz context, and that’s a shame. As quiet as it’s kept, many of the instrumentalists and vocalists central to the Motown Sound were immersed in the jazz idiom. One of the singers you’ll hear tonight is Marvin Gaye, singing jazz ballad standards! If you like to expand your horizons, please join us.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Harlem Speaks
Tommy LiPuma, Producer

Interview by Christian McBride
6:30 – 8:30pm
Location: NJMH Visitors Center
(104 E. 126th Street, Suite 2C)
FREE | For more information: 212-348-8300

One of the music industry’s most innovative and uniquely creative forces for more than four decades, Verve Music Group Chairman Emeritus Tommy LiPuma’s legendary career is record business history in the making. With 29 gold and platinum records to his credit, more than 30 GRAMMY® nominations, and three GRAMMY® Awards, he is one of the most successful pop and jazz producers ever.

By choosing to transition into the position of Chairman Emeritus in 2004, LiPuma decided to spend more time in the studio, and the very essence of what has driven him to be one of the most sought-out producers in the business – his keen musical insight and pristine sensibilities. “I can’t always put my finger on why I know something will work. It’s more the chills factor I look for — honing in on that artist whose music reaches inside you and takes you somewhere. There’s no scientific formula for hitting the mark, but that’s part of the excitement and challenge for me.”

One of the greatest success stories of LiPuma’s career is Diana Krall, with whom he continues a close association.

LiPuma began his first stint with Warner Bros. in 1974 as a staff A&R producer, helping launch the label careers of George Benson, Al Jarreau, and Michael Franks and recorded albums with Antonio Carlos Jobim, Joao Gilberto, and Claus Ogerman. After a brief time back at A&M in 1978, where LiPuma led the newly formed Horizon Records, working with Brenda Russell, Seawind, Dr. John (for whom he later produced the duet “In A Sentimental Mood” with Rickie Lee Jones), and David Grisman, he returned to Warner Bros. as Vice President, Jazz and Progressive Music. As producer and talent scout, he worked with the artists who made Warner Jazz one of the most successful jazz labels in the industry: Randy Crawford, Patti Austin, Bob James, David Sanborn, Earl Klugh, Everything But the Girl, The Yellowjackets, Joe Sample, and the late Miles Davis.

In 1990, LiPuma joined Elektra Records as Senior Vice President, A&R, rejoining his old partner Krasnow, who was label Chairman. While at Elektra, he produced Natalie Cole and Anita Baker, and brought Sanborn, The Story, and Wayne Shorter to the label. His work on Cole’s breakthrough album Unforgettable (which was produced by LiPuma, Andre Fischer, and David Foster) earned LiPuma a share of the 1991 GRAMMY® for Album of the Year. He also produced Cole’s platinum follow-up, Take a Look, as well as her 2002 Verve Records debut, Ask A Woman Who Knows.

Dead News: Warner Bros. Box Set + Jam Cruise Tixs

It's time to slip into auditory bliss with the five-LP boxed set The Warner Bros Studio Albums! Out now, the collection features The Grateful Dead, Workingman's Dead, and American Beauty, plus the sought-after original mixes for Anthem Of The Sun and Aoxomoxoa on 180-gram vinyl cut from the original analog masters.

Pick it up at Dead.net and you’ll not only get free shipping*, but you’ll also get an exclusive reproduction of the rare 1968 “Dark Star” 7” single AND an exclusive reproduction of a rare 1967 promotional poster.

Take a tour of The Warner Bros Studio Albums boxed set with David Lemieux. Click here.

SIRIUS|XM, home of the Grateful Dead Channel, is giving you and a guest the chance to win a trip on Jam Cruise 9! Featuring performances from over 30 bands and special guests, including Bob Weir, Rob Wasserman & Jay Lane are Scaring the Children, Rhythm Devils featuring Bill Kreutzmann & Mickey Hart, and many more. The cruise sets sail from Ft. Lauderdale January 4-9, 2011 with port stops in Roatan, Honduras & Costa Maya, Mexico. See Official Rules and enter for your chance to win – click here!

Unbroken Chain will be working with charity: water on the Box of Rain Project to bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. Learn more about the Box of Rain Project - featuring many opportunities to raise funds for a noble cause and bid on exciting upcoming auction packages.