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The Wailin' Jennys


Country of origin:

Canada and U.S.

Type of music generally:

Contemporary and traditional folk

Status:

Most recent release, Bright Morning Stars (2011)

See also:

The Wailin' Jennys' site

The Wailin' Jennys MySpace page

Individual members of the group: Nicky Mehta's site, Ruth Moody's site, Heather Masse's site

Former members of the group: Cara Luft's site, Annabelle Chvostek's site

Covers/own material:

Own and covers

General comments:

Another trio of independent female artists—this time from Canada who, while a bit less wild than The Road Dog Divas, still create exquisite harmonies and cover some wonderful material as well as write their own songs. Composed of Nicky Mehta, Ruth Moody and Cara Luft. (jjhanson@att.net)

Comments about live performance:

The Wailin' Jennys are sort of a Wyrd Sisters jr. The Jennys are a trio of Nicky Mehta, Carla Luft and Ruth Moody. They had much more energy then the Wyrd Sisters. They played two covers and one original and were a lot of fun. Not sure what I'd think of the artists solo (Nicky Mehta was the only one I actually saw, and she was ok), but as a trio they were a blast. (3/02)
     Wanted to see if they'd grown much from last year. However, they did a pretty similar showcase to last years. Which is not a bad thing. Three women, each with a unique voice and talent. Great harmonies, keyboard, guitar and bodhran. They do wonderful covers of traditional and unexpected songs (like "Bring 'Em All In" by the Waterboys and "Deeper Well" by Emmylou Harris). Their own songs aren't quite as compelling, but I'm still interested to see how they develop as songwriters. (2/03)
     Last week I had the distinct pleasure of spending lots of time with the Wailin' Jennys, a wonderful Canadian folk trio. The Jennys played fairly similar sets the two nights. Almost everything from their debut ep and first full-length album. That means a healthy collection of covers and originals penned by each of them. Covers include "Deeper Well" (Emmylou Harris), "Bring 'em All In" (Mike Scott/Waterboys), "Old Man" (Neil Young), and "Silvy" (Leadbelly). For the house concert, they also pulled out Jane Siberry's "Calling All Angels", since they discovered that Jeff & I were huge Jane fans.
     The thing that really makes you go wow about the Jennys is their harmonies. They are just breathtaking. They layer them in all the mathematical combinations possible, alternating leads and backing vocals. One of the most compelling songs in the Botanic Gardens show was "Bring 'em All In". Ruth and Nicky alternate breathing into the mic while Cara chant sings the song. This lead to a swooping breath that alternated sides of the space, enveloping us in this heavy rhythm. It was really stunning. The highlight of the house concert was probably the closing track, an a cappella version of the traditional song "The Parting Glass". The house concert had mics for the vocals and hand drum, while the guitars and other percussion were unamplified (and the piano had its own amplification). For "Parting Glass", they stepped in front of the mics and sang straight to the room. The blend of voices was incredible, sounding purer and more beautiful then anything I'd heard from them before. (8/04)
     First time seeing the Jennys with Annabelle Chvostek instead of Cara. Annabelle Chvostek sang great and the band sounded excellent. Cara's wackiness and humor were definitely missed, though. (3/05, neal)

I saw the Jennys a few times at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, and though I never got to see them do a full set, I enjoyed them a lot. The first night they came up and did "Come All You Sailors" and "Old Man" on the main stage in between acts. I heard them do "Sailors" twice more over the weekend, and I enjoyed it each time, folk with a contemporary, driving edge.
     On Saturday morning I got to their set late but caught their last 3 songs, which ended with "Come All You Sailors." They were very funny, talking a lot during songs, and making fun of Cara's obsession with writing songs about sailors. It wasn't a lot of the Jennys, but they had great harmonies and were a lot of fun. I'd definitely go see them again. (7/04)
     This was another fun show, though the Jennys have mellowed some. Not sure if that has to do with growing older and starting families or the addition of Heather Masse, the third woman to hold the third Jennys spot. At any rate, they played a good show in Madison Square Park with upright bass, drums, banjo, accordion, ukulele, and Jeremy Penner, (who's also on their live album) on violin and mandolin. They started off with a new Heather song, then did "Beautiful Dawn," "Arlington," "Bring Me Li'l' Water, Silvy," and "Deeper Well." Then "Born in the Leaves" (or "Sweet Morning Leaves?), a new Heather song written after being a doula for her sister. "Begin" got an introduction about worry, similar to what's on the live album. That was followed by "Glory Bound" with the audience doing the "Hallelujah" chorus and "Motherless Child," which I liked better here than on the live album. Another new song, "Away But Never Gone," this one written by Nicky on ukulele after learning a friend had passed away and while pregnant with twin boys. "Pants," a song they "love to sing to the babies," was written by "baby daddy and sound engineer" Grant Johnson and sounded like something the Nields would do these days. It was very cute. I especially liked the line "Sweaters are like wearing a hug." They then did "Cherry Blossom," a new Andrews Sisters-style song and "Last Goodbye," the first happy love song Nicky has written. They ended with "One Voice," encouraging the audience to sing along. For an encore they did "Storm Coming," a gospel song written by Ruth, a cappella with hand claps and foot stomps. (7/10, JoAnn.Whetsell)

Recommended first album:

40 Days

Recordings:


The Wailin' Jennys

Release info:

2003—WJ001

Availability:

See website for availability

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Cara Luft—acoustic guitar, lead vocal (1, 5, 6)
Ruth Moody—piano and bodhrán, lead vocal and acoustic guitar (3)
Nicky Mehta—acoustic guitar and shaker, lead vocal (2, 4), piano (2)

Comments:

I can sum this up in one word: beautiful. This is a disc not to be missed. The three-part harmony with the Jennys is "goose pimply", especially the a cappella song "Bring Me Li'l' Water, Silvy". There are no bad songs. It's quite awesome. I truly adore this. (Matt.Bittner)

This beautiful gem of an ep shows the Jennys are equally at home with old-fashioned tunes ("Bring Me Li'l' Wate"r, "Silvy") contemporary folk with an edge ("Deeper Well"), and the aural landscape in between. (JoAnn Whetsell)


40 Days

Release info:

2004—Red House Records—RHR CD 177

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Ruth Moody—lead vocal (1, 4, 8, 11), vocal, acoustic guitar, bodhrán, organ, piano, accordion
Cara Luft—lead vocal (2, 5, 10, 12), vocal, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, dobro
Nicky Mehta—lead vocal (3, 6, 9), vocal, cajón, acoustic guitar, harmonica

Guest artists:

Kevin Breit—mandolin, mandocello, dobro, electric guitar
Andrew Downing—acoustic bass
Mark Mariash—drums and percussion, additional percussion (4)
Richard Moody—viola, fiddle
David Travers-Smith—trumpet, organ, piano guts
Christian Dugas—drums and percussion (4)

Produced by:

David Travers-Smith

Comments:

Awesome, awesome, awesome. If anyone has their first EP, then you must buy this one. This is for those who really like harmonies as the three women who make up The Wailin' Jennys show just how wonderful all three voices work together. Most songs are written by the three, but a few are covers—again, well done.
     I cannot recommend this CD enough. (Matt.Bittner)

Simply put, it's just a really beautiful folk album with different flavors that I never get tired of. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Very catchy album of great songs with great harmonies. Phenomenal cover of Neil Young's Old Man, about a 1000 times better than that song covered by a more mainstream female trio who also released it this year (Wilson Philips). (jjhanson@att.net)


Firecracker

Release info:

2006—Red House Records—RHR CD 195

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Annabelle Chvostek—vocals, acoustic guitar, mandolin, violin
Nicky Mehta—vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica
Ruth Moody—vocals, acoustic guitar, accordion, banjo

Guest artists:

Christian Dugas—drums
Joe Phillips—acoustic bass
Mike Hardwick—electric guitar, acoustic guitar, dobro
Kevin Breit—electric guitar, national guitar, dobro, mandolin
Richard Moody—viola, violin
Mark Mariash—tambourine, additional drums
Andrew Downing—acoustic bass
John Dymond—electric bass
Grant Johnson—electric bass
Jeremy Penner—violin
Brian McMillan—electric guitar, acoustic guitar
Justin Abedin—electric guitar
David Travers-Smith—trumpet, E flat peck horn, Hammond M3 organ, percussion

Produced by:

David Travers-Smith

Comments:

The Jennys have made another beautiful album. After losing Cara Luft, the group could have disbanded, but fortunately they reformed with Annabelle Chvostek, a talented singer/songwriter who fits right in. Firecracker is more laidback and somewhat more countryish than 40 Days, but the vocals and harmonies are as gorgeous as ever. It's great to have these gals back. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House

Release info:

2009—Red House Records—RHR CD 220

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Highly recommended

Group members:

Nicky Mehta—vocals, acoustic guitar, drums, harmonica, ukulele
Ruth Moody—vocal, acoustic guitar, banjo, accordion, bodhrán
Heather Masse—vocals, upright bass =

Guest artists:

Jeremy Penner—violin, mandolin

Produced by:

David Travers-Smith

Comments:

I absolutely love the intense rendition of "Deeper Well" that opens this album. Love, love, love it. Can listen to it over and over again. But then they go into a slow a cappella version of "Summertime," a song I will admit I have never liked. Things pick up with a series of songs (traditionals, covers, and originals) that sound like standard Jennys fare. The energy level meanders up and down a bit, but overall the middle section is strong. I particularly like "Racing With the Sun." "Motherless Child" and "Calling All Angels" (yes, Jane Siberry's song) slow things down again. I find the phrasing a bit strange in these songs which keeps me from loving them, though the chorus of "Angels" is gorgeous. The album ends with a lovely version of "One Voice." Jeremy Penner's violin and mandolin is great, providing some of my favorite moments of the album. So, not a perfect album (this is a recording of one August 2008 show, and what show ever is perfect?), but overall one worth listening to. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Bright Morning Stars

Release info:

2011—Red House Records—RHR CD 234

Availability:

Wide

Ecto priority:

Recommended

Group members:

Nicky Mehta—lead vocal (1, 4, 10, 13); vocal (2, 3, 5-9, 11, 12); acoustic guitar; ukulele
Heather Massey—lead vocal (3, 6, 8, 11); vocal (1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 13)
Ruth Moody—lead vocal (2, 5, 9, 12); vocal (1, 3, 4, 6-8, 10-11, 13); acoustic guitar; banjo; accordion

Guest artists:

Paul Mathew—acoustic bass; cello
Christian Dugas—drums; percussion
Colin Cripps—hammertone; electric guitar; dobro
Kevin Breit—electric guitar; mandolin; acoustic guitar; National; slide electric guitar
Bill Dillon—electric bass; electric guitar loop (3); acoustic guitar; mandolin
Justin Haynes—ukulele; electric guitar; acoustic guitar; high-strung acoustic guitar
Richard Moody—viola
Jeremy Penner—fiddle
Jean Martin—drums (5)
Rob Gusevs—organ
David Travers-Smith—flugel horn; trumpet
Tone Valcic—drums (10)
Joe Phillps—upright bass

Produced by:

Mark Howard and David Travers-Smith

Comments:

Sadly, I don't connect with this album as I have with the Jennys' previous recordings. It's all nicely done, but for the most part it's too same-y, too staid, and too boring. (JoAnn Whetsell)

Further Info:

Compilation work includes:

  • "Arlington" on These Times We're Living In—A Red House Anthology (2005)
  • "Barefoot Floors"* and "Trick Rider"* on Down at the Sea Hotel (2007)
  • a live version of "The Parting Glass"* on Pickathon 2006 (2008)
  • "Avila" on Folk 'n' Right—A Red House Records Sampler (2009)
Collaborations include:

  • "Down at the Sea Hotel"* and "Nothing But a Child"* with Guy Davis and Lucy Kaplansky on Down at the Sea Hotel (2007)
*Track not available on The Wailin' Jennys' own recordings.


Thanks to JoAnn Whetsell for her work on this entry.

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Entry last updated 2012-01-28 20:39:27.
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