The template for Tres Chicas is clear: with its three women, longtime friends from the Raleigh, NC area, hailing from overlapping areas of rock, folk, and country, the group is an update of the Linda Ronstadt-Emmylou Harris-Dolly Parton Trio collaborations for the modern indie set. While Tonya Lamm, Lynn Blakey, and Caitlin Cary certainly lack the name recognition of their predecessors, their second outing, Bloom, Red & The Ordinary Girl, proves that their voices are certainly up to the challenge. Following 2005’s frequently great duet album with Thad Cockrell, Begonias, Cary, in particular, continues to emerge as one of alt-country’s finest vocalists, but Blakey and Lamm impress just as much on their lead vocal turns. While Bloom is primarily a vocal showcase, the songwriting contributed by each woman is first-rate. A cutting line like, “Poetry’s shit and the best that I’ve written/Will all be forgot when I die,” from Cary and Blakey’s “Red” certainly undersells the album’s best moments, though not without a wry self-deprecating streak. With such consistent writing and simply gorgeous harmony arrangements, what ultimately mars Bloom is the production by Neil Brockbank and Robert Trehern. Foregrounding the vocals is an understandable decision, but Bloom plays like a Norah Jones album without the adventurous diversity of sound—people hearing the album at a Starbucks listening station would likely find it dull, so committed are Brockbank and Trehern to ensuring that nothing in the songs’ arrangements or instrumentation draws attention from Tres Chicas’ lovely voices. These three women are exceptional talents, but this presentation makes them sound ordinary.
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