A wonderful thing about acoustic icons the Wailin’ Jennys: they’re a trio of amazing artists, each with fine solo releases, and the group hasn’t been plagued by public squabbling or other such nonsense as seems to often come with the pressures of success. Their fans have to be among the happiest in music that these gals stay intact, making gorgeous music together year after year.
Another wonderful thing: the Wailin’ Jennys’ fifth release, Bright Morning Stars (Red House Records). It’s a fine experience for fans of the Jennys and new listeners alike. The drawing card is that they’re excellent lead singers who, when they blend their voices in harmony or back each other up, weave a rich aural tapestry, with passion. Rooted in folk music, theirs is a unique blend of genres that also touches on country blues, jazz, even pop, showing what good use that sort of flavoring can be when applied with authentic artistry.
Ruth Moody (soprano), Nicky Mehta (mezzo), and Heather Masse (alto) love traditionals, but this time around decided to record just one—the title cut—and draw on originals for the other 12 songs. A choice with which no one’s going to argue. Mehta’s “Swing Low Sail High” opens Bright Morning Stars on a characteristic note of bluegrass underpinnings beneath a bright country sound that fairly glistens, from Mehta’s shimmering lead to the three of them blending their voices to perfection. It starts the album off with a pleasant airy jaunt.
The rest of the material sustains the Wailin’ Jennys accustomed quality, without exception. You have Ruth Moody’s lament “Storm Comin’,” part moaning-low bayou bluesy, part stark dust bowl cry. Definitely not recommended for cheery occasions. Heather Masse’s “Bird Song,” from her album of the same title, has the haunting feel of good, old-time bluegrass, her voice ringing pure and clear.
The Wailin’ Jennys have been out on the road touring to support the album since early February, but aren’t scheduled to come through these parts, or anywhere reasonably close. Nothing north of Colorado. So unless some new shows are announced, Bright Morning Stars is the best you can do as far as listening to some new Wailin’ Jennys goes. On the bright side, having them on the stereo is a lot better than not hearing them at all.