• Blackgirls
  • Speechless EP (Tom Tom/Black Park) 1987 
  • Procedure (Mammoth) 1989 
  • Happy (Mammoth) 1991 

No, they’re not and, yes, they are. The three white North Carolina women of Blackgirls perform intricate chamber music on acoustic guitar, violin and piano, creating an uncommon art-folk/classical hybrid with occasional Celtic inflections. But singer/songwriters Eugenia Lee and Dana Kletter both have dry, unsteady voices and a taste for cuteness and/or neurotic hypersensitivity in their lyrics. Combined with the dizzying polyrhythmic tides of the instrumental/vocal arrangements on Procedure, the accomplished music is charmless and uninviting.

With Joe Boyd (of Fairport Convention fame) again providing a crystalline production job, Blackgirls refine and smooth out their art (if not their diary-entry lyrics) on Happy, a sophisticated and accomplished-sounding record that seems, for the first time, to acknowledge the possible presence of an audience. While a lot of the album sticks to its predecessor’s choppy complexity, the arrangement of “Charleston” is simplified to the point of easy appeal.

[Ira Robbins]

See also: Dish