Sweetwater, Tres Chicas' 2004 debut, settled nicely between impromptu and professional. Of course, it was impromptu — though longtime friends Caitlin Cary, Lynn Blakey and Tonya Lamm had never recorded together. But with their rich experience in such alt-country groups as Whiskeytown (Cary) and Glory Fountain (Blakey), the trio ended up with something really exquisite. They had set out to make muffins from scratch, only to concoct a timeless family recipe. Sweetwater's affable charm remains on Bloom, Red & the Ordinary Girl. Whether harmonizing or singing individually, Cary, Blakey and Lamm's vocals are always comfier than a homemade blanket. But producer Neil Brockbank and such supporting players as pianist Geraint Watkins, drummer Robert Trehern and Nick Lowe (helping out on bass) make this album much more considered and tasteful. Cary's smart, beautiful "Red," the languid "Stone Love Song" and the rambling "Man of the People" all have their traditional country sensibilities in place. But sometimes this feels like country as played by well-dressed English gentlemen — like what you'd imagine Mark Knopfler listening to in his parlor. Fortunately Tres Chicas' singing never ceases to amaze, and their voices more than save Bloom, Red & The Ordinary Girl from fading too pleasantly into the evening.

Johnny Loftus writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].

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